Whether it’s the recall of General Motors vehicles, or it’s an E. coli outbreak at Chipotle, organizational crises abound. And while some companies are able to emerge from a crisis stronger than before, others crumble under the pressure.
High levels of uncertainty, time urgency and negative moral are just a few factors that can take a toll on a workforce during a crisis. The strain can lead to reduced productivity, poor employee retention and increased financial problems—which causes many organizations to fail.
But some company’s bounce back from a crisis even better than before. They learn from their hardships and they move forward with renewed confidence. What’s the difference between companies who thrive and those who crumble? Leadership.
An organization’s leader plays an integral role in how resilient employees are during an organizational crisis. The more resilient the employees are, the more likely an organization is to survive—or perhaps even thrive—when faced with a potential catastrophe.
The Role Of Leadership During A Crisis
A 2016 study published in Group Organization Management examined the leadership in organizations that had survived a crisis. They found that transformational leaders were instrumental in helping employees stay positive during a crisis, which was critical to the organization’s outcome.
Even when lives were at stake, the best leaders were able to help employees experience positive emotions, which was the key to keeping employees mentally strong. The more resilient the employees were, the more resilient the organization was as a whole.
Researchers suggest there are three things that leaders can do to help employees remain positive and productive throughout a crisis:
1. Seek Team Members’ Ideas
Enduring hardship is tough. But thinking you have absolutely no control over that hardship makes it even tougher.
When employees are asked for their feedback and ideas, they take more ownership in the problem. They’re more devoted to the cause and they’re more motivated to help.
But many leaders worry that asking for suggestions will make them appear incompetent or weak. But in fact, the opposite is true.
Getting your employees involved in creating solutions. Not only will the increased brainpower provide you with more potential solutions, but your entire team will also become stronger.
2. Empathize With The Stress And Strain
Sometimes, leaders mistakenly think they shouldn’t admit that they’re tired or stressed out. So they minimize problems and hide their distress in an effort to reduce panic. But pretending to be “the fearless leader” isn’t helpful.
Acknowledge that everyone—including you—feels distress. Authentic communication provides genuine reassurance and people won’t feel like they’re enduring the strain alone. Spread the idea that “This is tough, but we’re in this together,” and your team will be more likely to band together.
3. Encourage Followers To Ask For Help
A crisis can lead employees to worry that asking for help will be viewed as a sign of weakness. And no one wants to look like the weak link on the team.
Whether someone can’t meet a deadline, or an employee needs some extra emotional support, the last thing you want is for people to struggle in silence. Simply telling people, “If you need any help, let us know what we can do” can go a long way. Provide support and strive to get struggling workers back on track as fast as possible.
Be A Mentally Strong Leader
An organizational crisis could be the worst disaster your company ever experiences or it could be your company’s finest hour. The difference depends on leadership.
Treat each small issue your company faces as an opportunity to practice for a future crisis. Be a strong leader and build a strong team now. With each successfully resolved issue, you’ll be better prepared to weather any future storms your organization encounters.