How to Manage Your Team During a Crisis

Sep 17, 2015
4 Min Read

If your team is going through a reorg, losing key staff, having its budget or a popular program slashed, or battling negative PR, it can be tough to rally your team to stay productive. When it’s not business as usual, how can you effectively manage your (probably distracted and anxious) team?

1. For starters, be transparent but don’t speculate too much. Managers tend to fall in one of two camps in times of crisis: They either play things too close to the vest, or they do too much speculating on things they don’t actually know yet. Both approaches are likely to increase your team’s anxiety! The problem with the first – trying to keep too tight a hold on information – is that employees can usually tell that there’s important information you’re not sharing with them, and that makes people alarmed. Plus, in an absence of information, people will start guessing about what’s happening – and often their guesses are more damaging than straightforward honesty would have been. The problem with the second – over-speculating about what might happen – is that you could be wrong, and you can often make things feel more chaotic for your team.

Instead, you can build good will by talking openly with people (to the extent that you’re allowed to) about what’s going on, what it means for them, and – if you don’t actually have much information yourself – when you think you’re likely to.

2. Stay accessible. When your team is dealing with tough times, it’s important that you’re particularly accessible. People may need to talk to you and ask questions, or they may just appreciate seeing you providing a reliable, authentic daily presence during the turmoil. In fact, people will be taking a lot of cues from you during this time, so it’s important that they see you focused on moving work forward (without seeming to be an unrealistic Pollyanna about the situation).

3. Make sure you don’t lose your best people. If things are feeling unstable – and especially if the crisis is financial in nature – your team members are likely to be wondering if they should be looking for more secure pastures. You’re particularly vulnerable to losing your strongest people during this time; they’re the ones most likely to have a ready pipeline of other prospects and be able to find new work quickly if they decide they want to. You can lower that possibility by talking with them directly about their futures in your organization and addressing head-on any worries they might have about their job security or what things are likely to look like for your team in the coming months.

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