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Mentally preparing for a workplace crisis
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Employees want to know that leadership cares about their safety and well-being, and is capable of leading effectively in the wake of a crisis.
Oct. 7, 2013 11:31 a.m.

Tip of the Week

Recent events in the news have reminded us that unexpected, dangerous and stressful situations can happen anywhere: on the street corner, at the grocery store and in the workplace. While these situations are often chaotic, there are steps you can take to mentally prepare yourself to handle them better.

David Levine, senior vice president of Optum's Employee Assistance Program and an expert in workplace crisis response, says anyone can take steps ahead of time to prepare themselves and their workplace to better handle a tragic or emotionally disturbing event.

• Evaluate your purpose. Those who feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves tend to exhibit higher levels of resiliency after a tragedy. Workplaces that encourage volunteerism and community involvement, promote work-life balance and encourage an individual's sense of family are positioned to nurture resiliency.

• Find ways to manage your stress. Stress can contribute to a host of health issues and can affect the way your brain works. If you're already in the habit of doing things to help you cope with everyday stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or a hobby, that will put you at an advantage for dealing with a sudden crisis.

• Examine your relationships. Close relationships with family and friends can be invaluable at times of distress. Those with strong support networks tend to manage these challenges better and recover more quickly.

For a business owner or manager, Levine says it's important to develop a crisis response plan and make sure you are familiar with its details so that in times of need, you can respond quickly and calmly.

Focus on remembering the "ACT" crisis communication process: "Acknowledge, Communicate and Transition."

• Acknowledge and name the incident. Be visible and available, and use real language that specifically describes what occurred. Acknowledge that the incident has affected the team and you. This action can align leaders with their employees and reduce the likelihood of creating an atmosphere of blame and stagnation.

• Communicate with compassion and competence. Employees want to know that leadership cares about their safety and well-being, and is capable of leading effectively in the wake of a crisis. During these difficult times, employers and managers must "know their stuff" when it comes to the logistics of responding to a crisis, but also be able to communicate in a compassionate way.

• Begin to transition. Convey an expectation of recovery to help those who are affected make the transition to viewing themselves as a "survivor" rather than a "victim." Communicate flexible and reasonable accommodations as people progress back to "normal" life at work.

— Brandpoint

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