Never Say Die during a Crisis

This is a post by Sarah Brooks from She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. You can connect with her via email at  brooks.sarah23 @

Stress and anxiety are natural features of today’s fast-paced, competitive work environments, where things can change at a moment’s notice. Hyper-connected communications and volatile markets contribute to business environments that sometimes walk the line between order and chaos. As a result, effectively managing workplace crises is an essential requirement for successful modern managers, who share the unique ability to operate under pressure.

Although specialists still exist in most industries, modern leaders are increasingly asked to juggle multiple responsibilities within their organizations. Consequently, they face pop-up crises that require quick-thinking and immediate resolution. And while there is no cookie-cutter solution to crisis management, successful leaders use some of the following strategies to diffuse stressful workplace developments.

Control Physiological Response

The human body responds to stress in a number of ways, which escalate alongside the gravity of the issue at hand. Effective leaders keep tabs on physiological responses, which have a tendency to spread during crisis situations. Calm, even communication, for example, leads to better outcomes than harried efforts to issue instructions and responses.

Deliberate, steady breathing patterns contribute to an even response to workplace dilemmas. And controlled breathing also regulates a steady heart rate, which further reinforces leaders’ calm demeanor during interactions with co-workers, employees and team members.

Stay Focused

Not knowing what to do is sometimes used as an excuse for doing nothing. Rather than give up, effective leaders strive to find creative solutions to the workplace crises they face. In order to stay focused on an issue, competent managers resist the urge to react impulsively to crisis situations. It is easier said than done, at times, because issues arise suddenly; drawing knee-jerk responses. Absorbing the details and focusing on core issues allows effective leaders to apply sound reasoning to decision-making, rather than impulsive behavior.

Use Humor to Diffuse Anxiety

Serious situations call for pointed, thoughtful responses, but somber approaches can slow crisis response. More often than not, there is a lot at stake for leaders responding to workplace crises, so the gravity of an incident can choke innovation and creativity responding to the matter at hand. Without losing decorum, effective leaders know when to inject humor as a motivation tool or inspiration for problem-solving. Often, deep breaths and shared humor are enough to lighten the mood and refocus staff.

Prepare in Advance

The only constant is change, so it can be difficult to anticipate the types of crises that may arise in the workplace. But the volatile nature of business actually presents a strong argument for advanced preparations. While you may not be able to foresee every aspect of a particular incident, knowledge gives you the ability to respond to a variety of concerns, preparing you for whatever might arise on the job.

To remain positioned to respond to crises, effective leaders build contingencies into their preparations, furnishing multiple paths toward positive outcomes. With a broad knowledge base about specific industries they work in and a range of solutions to choose from, well-prepared leaders have the best chance of prevailing during crisis.

Use Available Resources

The abilities to delegate and collaborate are shared by many successful leaders, who efficiently use the resources at hand to maximize returns. The same principles are reasonably applied to crisis management, which benefits from a unified team approach. Most often, managing crises is facilitated by creative thinking and innovative solutions, so leaders best-able to harness the power of diverse team members set the stage for positive outcomes.   And while personnel are among leaders’ most valuable assets, taking advantage of other resources also supports effective leadership. Technology, for example, is another crisis management tool that effective leaders apply aptly.

Leaders respond to a variety of crisis situations, so staying prepared helps them manage unanticipated events in dynamic business environments. By staying calm and focused, effective leaders inspire team members to rise to the challenge during trying times; increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Question: How do you lead during a workplace crisis?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “Never Say Die during a Crisis

  1. Good points. First of all, the best practice is to seek or try to speculate on what can become a crisis, such as safety etc. Nothing worse than getting the phone call that someone is seriously hurt or dead…

    Beyond that, it’s about not running from the crisis, but use it to become better. The companies that can overcome the biggest obstacles are the ones that survive in the down times and often thrive.

    Great thoughts you’ve shared, especially the one about the humor, it puts things into perspective.

  2. Sarah these are all great points. Too me avoiding the knee jerk reaction is key. All “crisis” are not created equal. They may be bad but most are not the end of the world. We need to take the moment to relax, think clearly then lead forward. We can’t let the heat of the moment drive how we lead. Of course this is all easier said than done.

  3. Awesome post Sarah, it was very well written. Thanks for sharing!

    My favorite being the one on breathing. I can say the breath should not be controlled, but rather be as it is. Just being aware of the breath, and seeing how it comes up, and how it goes away. That is about the focus on the breath. But if one can’t do that, then controlled breathing does also help in that sense.

  4. Humor is something I have used in a crisis situation. It does help to relieve some of the tension but you also have to be careful because you don’t want to make people think that you’re not taking the situation seriously.

  5. I remember when I was in corporate America and we would have major crisis moments. I used to go for a walk. Not in the middle of the crisis when they needed me most but when I felt it brewing I would go for a walk so that I could prepare myself.