Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy — although I’m borrowing lyrics from Eminem, I’m not about to burst into rap, don’t worry.
Instead, I want to draw your attention to the symptoms of stress or panic, two very unpleasant, yet common, states of mind experienced in times of crisis at work (or otherwise).
If this sounds familiar, here are some tips to help you navigate a work crisis and come out feeling far more relaxed and in control.
Step 1: Identify the issue
First things first: you have to identify and acknowledge the problem and tackle the source.
If you’re the source, take stock of the situation, breathe, and think about what you can do to solve the problem in the moment.
If you’re dealing with someone else’s mistake, make contact as soon as you can and explain what’s wrong. Try and remain calm — don’t raise your voice and listen to what that person has to say.
Let’s do a little experiment just to help you recognize what this might look like in action.
Scenario: You get a phone call from an angry customer complaining about a subscription to your SaaS product.
Solution: Apologize to the customer. Then ask for details about the issue they’re experiencing, that way you know who is best to speak to within your organization. Tell the customer you will look into it, give them a reference number (or direct contact information) and tell them you’ll get back to them with appropriate timelines once you’ve spoken to your team.
Step 2: Deal with it
Once you know what’s gone wrong, you need to realize that you have the tools to solve the problem — and if you don’t, ask for help.
Reach out to relevant teams and provide as much information as necessary. Relay everything you said to the client so that the support team are aware of any deadlines or timelines.
Scenario: From what the customer told you on the phone, you’ve been able to identify that the problem lies with the technology — which falls outside your remit or expertise.
Solution: Reach out to the tech team, provide the necessary information and if applicable any screenshots that will help them identify the issue with ease.
Step 3: Communicate and be timely
Communication and transparency are key throughout the problem resolution process.
You need to position yourself as a problem-solver and not a roadblock: don’t sit on information or slow down the process. If you do, you’ll risk becoming even more stressed or panicked.
Be transparent with all the parties involved and keep them in the loop — that way it will also be easier for you to keep track of all the moving parts and provide status updates.
Scenario: You’re stuck between the grumpy customer and a very busy tech team.
Solution: Make sure the client knows you’re dealing with their issue and ensure the tech team is aware of the urgency. Be courteous of everyone’s time and deal with problems in a timely manner, if you can, try and preempt any consequential issues.
How to stay calm
Now that we’ve broken down the problem resolution process, it’s important to look at how one can prepare to be better equipped and what tools are required to keep calm during a conflict or crisis situation at work.
Step 1: Be prepared
Make sure you’re organized. Keep a tab on all moving parts, try and remove as much uncertainty as possible, and find effective ways of keeping control at work.
If you want to be really proactive, you can plan ahead and establish set processes to deal with possible issues before they arise:
- Put together a crisis team
- Identify the key risks
- Develop your crisis plan
- Plan a full recovery
Step 2: Learn from every experience
The fact of the matter is that you’re likely to encounter countless crises or conflicts throughout your career, so make sure you learn from every single one as they’ll help you when it comes to dealing with future issues.
Remember we all make mistakes, and learning from these is what makes us stronger and better at our jobs.
Don’t let the voices in your head make you think you’re a failure — you’re just human — and sometimes apologizing and solving a problem is the best and only thing you can do.
Step 3: It’s all about people
It’s important to have the right people or teams in place and ensure they work well together.
It’s so easy to get carried away and talk down to people when you’re stressed or in panic mode but this isn’t going to make the problem go away. You’ll alienate people and make others around you feel more panicked and probably less able to help.
Be respectful, cooperative, and collaborative and things will be a lot easier.
Team trust and loyalty really are your best friends.
Step 4: Look after yourself
Recognize the first signs of panic or stress and learn to manage your feelings.
Don’t jump into things, give yourself time to take stock of the situation and gather your thoughts. If you’re struggling to be objective, ask others around you to help.
Breathe, relax your body, and tell yourself you can do this.
And if at any point you feel the stress becomes truly unmanageable, seeing a therapist can be the right way to go. Never shy away from seeking professional help and ensure your wellbeing.