Jess Ostroff

How to Manage an Internal Crisis Without Losing Your Mind

By: Jess Ostroff | August 21, 2014 | 
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How to Manage an Internal Crisis Without Losing Your MindBy Jess Ostroff

We talk a lot about public-facing crises—the kind that everyone hears about and cringes over.

But what about the things that happen within the walls of your own company?

The crises that may never hit the masses, but still cause chaos, frustration, and even firings?

Even if you have a brilliant, talented, and detail-oriented staff, things will go wrong.

Everyone makes mistakes. And I can say with certainty that the nature of working with other people creates more opportunities for error.

Expect an Internal Crisis

Why?

Because it’s impossible to give 100 percent of your effort and energy all of the time.

Whether it’s a family issue, a personal issue, or even a bout of insomnia, there are always going to be external factors that keep your employees (and you) from being their best all the time.

What does this mean for you?

It means you can’t freak out when someone screws up.

Here’s how to avoid the panic and manage an internal crisis with grace.

Don’t Make Assumptions

You know what they say about assume, don’t you?

Whatever you think happened might not be what actually be, especially if you learn about the issue from a third party.

There are three sides to every story: Yours, theirs, and the truth.

Take a deep breath and go directly to the source of the problem to find out what happened.

This is no time for an email or an instant message.

This is the time when you pick up the phone or walk straight into the culprit’s office for a conversation.

And when you get there, don’t attack the person who you believe is responsible.

If it means making yourself some hot tea or splashing some water on your face to calm yourself down from the initial panic that the crisis imposes on you, do it.

Find ways to ease your own tension and frustration before addressing the issue to make the conversation, and ultimately the outcome, much smoother.

This goes for even the most timely of crises. Addressing the issue head on with poise and grace is the first step to solving the problem.

Focus on the Solution

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been faced with a situation where the person who was wronged won’t stop pontificating on what happened and how horrible it was.

While I can understand that sometimes crises are shocking and terrible, I don’t see any reason for replaying the pain over and over again in your head. It’s pointless.

So, instead of laying in to the person that made the mistake or caused the crisis, figure out together what you can do to solve the problem.

This is another step where staying calm can save you. If you’re frantic about getting through it, you’ll likely choose a short-term and less ideal solution.

If you can spend even just a few moments brainstorming with a level head, you’ll be able to find creative and meaningful solutions that go beyond the quick-fix.

All Hands on Deck

Most of the time, the reason a crisis became so is because it happens quickly and causes massive issues.

Therefore, the fastest way to clean up a mess to get everyone on board.

I recently experienced an issue with a new social media management tool that accidentally posted a status update to all of our clients’ social media channels, instead of just the one it was intended for.

Luckily, we caught it within minutes. And I trusted my team enough to know that it wasn’t intentional.

Even though it was a Saturday morning and I was on my way out the door, I calmly called and texted everyone I needed to put the kibosh on the rogue messages.

Working together with speed and efficiency, we managed to delete them before anyone even knew it had happened.

We were able to find a solution before the problem became a crisis.

And I didn’t have a panic attack. FTW!

Put your ego aside. Let your team know what’s going on. Give them a chance to react, but present your solutions-oriented plan to them before they have a chance to worry about it.

If everyone helps a little, no one has to help a lot.

Reflect

Once we went through each social media channel to make sure the right messaging was in place, we reviewed the tool we were using to figure out what had gone wrong.

Within an hour or so, we had figured out why the tool malfunctioned, updated our clients, and ensured that everyone understood so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Sometimes reflection can be painful. It may mean re-developing your entire operations, re-defining roles, or even letting someone go.

But it’s important to wait until the crisis has been managed before considering these options.

It may take a few hours, or even a few days before you’re able to cool off and assess the internal crisis objectively.

Make it an integral part of your internal crisis strategy to spend as much time as necessary reflecting on what happening, implementing or adjust plans for the future, and ensuring that you are perfectly prepared for the next time.

Because trust me, there will be a next time!

About Jess Ostroff


Jess Ostroff is the founder and director of calm of Don't Panic Management, a virtual assistant agency. She loves finding efficient ways to get work done, bringing good people together, and enjoying live music.