The Rosner Group

Bosses Must Lead in Crisis

We asked this week's career expert: What advice would you give managers in times of tragedy to keep employees engaged?

Judith Rosner: Managers play a critical role in these uncertain times. In fact, the behavior of a manager during traumatic times, like ones we're currently dealing with, can make or break an employee's loyalty to the company. Here is a "short list" of ideas a manager can use as part of his or her strategy to not only get through the current crisis, but also to be prepared for any others that may come in time.

  • First, be available. This is not the time to get work done behind closed doors. Make yourself visible and available for employees. Never underestimate the importance of your personal leadership style. In times of crisis, people need a leader who is calm, confident and reassuring.

  • Be compassionate. People need time to talk, to express concerns about themselves, their families. There will be a lull in productivity and more sick time may be used. Expect it. Simple expressions of concern and help with daily tasks will go a long way to improve productivity.

  • Let employees take action. Have a cause that people can rally around. Consider sponsoring a clothing drive, donating blood, raising money; something to focus on that gives people a sense of control and a feeling that they can make a difference.

  • Realize that one size doesn't fit all. We all react differently to crisis situations. Some people need to get back to a routine quickly; its their way of coping. Others need time to talk and sort through issues. Managers need to respect the needs of each employee.

  • Mobilize professional resources. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or counseling services, encourage people to use them. Refer your people to professionals who are trained to help them get through these types of situations. Provide free information and resources.

  • Monitor safety issues. More that ever, employers are concerned with safety. Simple measures like providing emergency telephone numbers to everyone and making certain that someone in the company knows who is in on any given day are important. Safety also refers to financial security. Announcements of job layoffs have exacerbated people's fears and anxiety. Managers need to address these concerns and provide information so that gossip and speculation don't run rampant.

  • Expect things to get worse before they get better. The impact of recent events will be with us for a long time come. Keeping disaster plans and emergency rosters updated goes a long way toward preparing for what the future may hold.

  • Remember the ceasing business is what the enemy wants. Remind your employees that one of the best ways to honor the victims, the medical providers, the rescue teams, and our supporters, is to pull together and be productive.

    Your employees will remember how you treated them during this unsettling time. These suggestions should help you maintain peace, safety, and productivity in your workplace.

Reprinted with permission from Inside Business