Best Practice: how to keep calm in a crisis

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11th Feb 2013
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Crises happen in the workplace all the time. Some are bigger than others, particularly when they draw media attention, such as the HMV twitter debacle the other week, where one of their soon to be made redundant employees took to the main twitter account to vent their anger. We all know that the administrators and companies have to move quickly to manage a failing situation but normal working practices should not be ignored and the high fees that they command means that they should work all hours to get the right processes in place. This can be a stressful time for all - and particularly those in HR making sure that the employees affected have the immediate support that they need.  It can be a difficult balance to protect the company and also to help staff through challenging times.  So how do organisations keep calm in a crisis like this? And how should they be advising individuals on dealing with stressful things that come their way? Redundancy can be an awful thing to go through.  Some people experience it as a positive thing and a way of moving on to other things but for many it can be incredibly stressful. Stress is a tricky thing for organisations. Every organisation goes through stressful times, this maybe a horrible administration process, a difficult merger, redundancies or just a general tough few months. In-fact, even when things are going well, there’s always some form of pressure within an organisation. Stress means different things to different people.  And what is motivating to one person can be stressful to someone else. Put simply, stress is an emotional reaction to physical, psychological or emotional demands that are placed on individuals.  So what happens to individuals in times of stress?   The stress response triggers adrenaline in the body – it is what gets us going – it stimulates the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction in the body. Appropriate all those years ago maybe when we were running across the fields searching for food being chased by a rather large animal - but not so appropriate now.   The stress response is basically there to keep individuals safe – to protect them and to stir them into an appropriate reaction.Things only become stressful when we exceed our personal capacity to be able to cope. If you feel like individuals in your organisation might be experiencing high levels of stress, the key is to understand what is going on for the individual.  Employees are more than just the people turning up for work, so there may be other things outside of the work place causing pressure.  There may be ways that you can support them with that.   The organisation does need to do all it can to ensure employees are motivated and engaged and not stressed. In order to ensure you reduce pressure and the potential of stress within your organisation, here are a few tips:

  • Ensure your managers and supervisors are trained well and interact with their staff in a respectful and supportive manner. Research shows the manager / subordinate relationship to be one of the top causes for an individuals’ stress.
  • Ensure you have a good fit with the person and their job role.  Ensuring people have the right skills, knowledge and training to do their role will ensure they can perform at their best.
  • Ensure you keep people informed and have a good communication strategy in place.
  • Ensure individuals have appropriate levels of autonomy.  Feeling in control of our work is a core individual need to support our happiness and motivation levels.
  • Ensure staff are not pressured with overload of work.  Too much can lead people into feelings of not being able to cope.
  • Consider what you do to support staff wellbeing.  There are many things you can do at an organisational level including providing training sessions on topics of health, nutrition, exercise and relaxation as well as running regular classes, weight loss programmes and supporting gym memberships.
  • If you have a canteen or staff restaurant – ensure there are healthy meals and snacks available. 
  • If you can – provide an Employee Assistance Programme where staff can make phone calls for advice in times of need.  It can provide them with a confidential way of resolving issues and problems that they may be experiencing both inside and outside of the workplace. 

So remember, if the stress response triggers adrenaline – it is adrenaline that gets us going – it is adrenaline that gets and keeps us motivated to do things. So if we look at it a different way stress is actually motivation!  The key from an organisational level is to tap into motivation and ensure employees don’t exceed their personal capacity to cope.  Working across a range of sectors and with start-ups to top 20 companies, Janice Haddon is a qualified coach and has a passion for integrating performance, personal positivity and wellbeing into the work place. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Psychotherapy and an MBA from Henley Management College, Janice is also a Master Practitioner in NLP, a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapy Counsellor and runs a number of businesses including Morgan Redwood. 

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