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What to Do When the Worst Happens: How to Provide Support to Your Team When Tragedy Strikes

Wednesday January 17th 2018

Dealing with a tragedy that affects your team is one of the most difficult challenges you may face as a manager or leader within your company. Your team will look to you for guidance in a time of tragedy and your obligation is to offer them support while also maintaining order within the office. While it is never pleasant to think about the possibility of tragedy striking, it’s best to anticipate the needs of your team should such an event occur and establish a plan to help each of your employees cope and recover.

As a leader, you must be ready to guide your team through any difficult situation and help return their sense of personal and professional normalcy.

Communicate

When tragedy strikes, it’s only natural to feel fear and confusion. Your employees will need information and answers to their questions to ease those feelings and help them cope. Do not try to manage the situation privately and communicate with your team after the fact. This will only breed more confusion and build a frenzied feeling amongst the team. Leaving them to wonder and imagine the worst will make it much harder to keep everyone calm. It’s best to communicate openly from the start, and make sure each member of your team has access to any information they’ll need to ease their fear and anxiety.

Calmly communicate information as soon as you receive it and allow your team to ask questions or express their concerns. This will strengthen the bond between you and your team, and help them feel supported through the crisis.

Understand and Respect Their Needs

Remember that each person handles the emotions caused by tragedy in a different way. Fear, anger, grief, sadness, confusion – these are all emotions you may experience yourself or observe in your staff, and it’s important to be mindful and sensitive to the unique needs of each employee. Don’t expect everyone to handle a tragedy in the same way and show compassion for those who struggle with coping. Don’t hold them to a specific timeline and expect them to feel better by a certain date. If personal time is needed to recover, be understanding of that and give them the option to process the situation in their own timeframe and in a comforting environment.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize and respect your own needs during a tragedy. Just because you are expected to lead does not mean you’re expected not to feel. It is okay to feel a range of emotions in a tragedy, and while it’s probably best for your team if you privately manage those emotions, it’s still important for you to take the time to process them. Take care of yourself so that you are able to be a more compassionate and effective leader.

Provide Resources for Support

In the midst of a tragedy, you cannot be expected to fix everything for everyone. You are only one person, and while you must lead your team through the crisis, you will surely need help to do so. In order to minimize the long-term effects a tragedy can take on your team, bring in professionals to help your employees process their emotions.

No matter what kind of crisis you’re dealing with, there are support services that are available to lend a helping hand. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance so that your team has the support they need from day one.

Follow Company Protocol

It’s likely that your company has some sort of protocol in place for dealing with a crisis. If not, it’s definitely time to create one and share it with your team so they know what to expect if the worst happens. Just knowing that there is a protocol for such difficult situations can help put people at ease, as it removes some uncertainty of the situation for them. Consistency and stability are vitally important in a crisis to help relieve fear and anxiety that are naturally felt in such situations.

Company policies and protocol will also help you be a better leader in times of tragedy, as you will likely be dealing with your own emotions and may need a bit of guidance on how to proceed. Protocol is also very important during a tragedy in cases where your team may be in imminent danger. Familiarize yourself with that protocol before tragedy strikes so that if and when it does, you are ready to serve and support your team.

No one likes to plan for the worst – it makes many uncomfortable and can cause anxiety while anticipating a tragedy. But preparedness is crucial to surviving and thriving after a tragedy. The goal for your team is to regain their sense of normalcy after dealing with a crisis. And, while you can’t dictate the timeline for that process because everyone handles those emotions in a unique way, as a leader you can and should provide a path to healing for not only yourself but your team as well.

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