What Should Employees Do in a Crisis?

What Should Employees Do in a Crisis

Our lowdown on three ways employees should approach a crisis—be it an unruly customer or a terrorist attack.

At the start of January 2023, a drunk man in an Air India flight’s business class urinated over a 72-year-old woman sitting beside him. The man, Shankar Mishra, was the Vice President of the financial services company Wells Fargo (he was fired following the incident). In itself, the incident is disgusting. What irked people, even more, was the airline’s reaction—or lack thereof. Not only did the airline staff refuse the victim’s request to switch seats, but they also let Mishra go scot-free once the flight landed. 

This is not the first time such an event has happened. There have been incidents of drunk men urinating on women’s blankets and even smoking on flights. All the while, the cabin crew has done little. This is quite telling of the way airlines are training employees. In such situations, proper training and measures help in crisis management. Here, we look at what employees can do during a crisis.

But first, what is a business crisis?

A business crisis is a situation that presents a major threat to the functioning of an organization. It could be a natural disaster, an economic downturn or any other unexpected event that can cause significant disruption to the operations of a business. To prepare for such situations, organizations need to develop risk mitigation strategies and crisis planning guidelines. This will help them anticipate and manage any potential business emergency before it occurs.

It can take many forms, like ‌robbery, unruly customers (a U.S.-based Burger King employee was slapped by a customer in 2020, and a customer spat in the face of a McDonald’s employee in Australia) or even fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks and more. 

3 ways employees can handle crises:

1. Follow proper procedures and protocols

By training staff on the proper procedures and protocols for crisis management, companies can ensure that their staff members are prepared for any potential crises that may arise. From fire safety to pandemic response plans, companies need to have a comprehensive plan in place and train their staff accordingly. This will help them respond quickly and efficiently during a crisis.

For instance, Starbucks implements the LATTE method for dealing with rude customers. The acronym stands for: Listen, Acknowledge, Thank, Take action, Encourage to come again. Of course, if things get out of hand, call the manager or the police depending on the situation. 

2. Work as a team

Working together as a team is essential for effectively managing any crisis in the workplace. When a team collaborates, each member’s strengths, skills and experiences can be utilized to help find the best solution to the problem. 

Teamwork also allows for more creative thinking, as different perspectives can be brought to the table. Additionally, team members can offer moral support and encouragement to the other members, which can be especially beneficial during a difficult situation.

The 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, are a great case study of teamwork. The employees at Taj Hotel—one of the attacked sites—worked together to ensure that their guests were ushered to safety. Despite the stress of the situation, they engaged in critical thinking, helping each other through it all. Many of them did not live to tell the tale, but their actions remain etched in the minds of guests and citizens at large. 

3. Remain calm

When faced with a workplace crisis, it is important to remain calm. The ability to remain levelheaded and think allows us to take the best course of action and make the best decisions. Panic and fear can lead to rash decisions that could have negative consequences. Taking the time to think through the situation and gather the necessary information can help to make sure that the right decisions are made. It is also important to remember that no problem is too big to be solved.

Had the employees at Taj panicked, the whole situation could have gotten worse and perhaps even resulted in more deaths. 

Employees play an essential role in maintaining workplace order and safety during a crisis. They are the first line of defense in the case of emergencies and are often the ones to take action. That’s why employees should be trained in the proper procedures for handling any kind of crisis—from natural disasters to workplace violence—so that they can react quickly and appropriately. 

Employees should also be made aware of their rights and responsibilities during a crisis, such as their right to report unruly customers or their responsibility to keep them safe. Employees should also be encouraged to report any suspicious activity or behavior to help prevent a crisis from escalating. By understanding their role and staying alert, employees can help ensure a safe and secure work environment for everyone.

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Header Image by Wikimedia Commons


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