4 Ways not to React in Crisis Situations

Crises happen in the workplace frequently. Whether these crises are real or artificial, it seems there are four types of poor leadership that emerges during crisis (or perceived crisis) situations. Each having a negative impact on the team:


Leaders who react in panic asking over and over, “What are we going to do?” but don’t actually do anything productive to solve the problem will not help resolve the crisis situation. They like to bury themselves in risk registers, defect analysis, or other documentation. By simply producing a lot of documentation during a crisis situation they feel they are solving the problem but usually they are just creating busy work.

Impact: Leaders in panic mode often create a scurry of activity and anxiety among the team. The panic permeates through the team and people lose clarity of thought and ability to solve the problem efficiently. Also, as mentioned before, these leaders tend to want to review lots of documentation in hopes of solving the issue. Who creates the documentation? The team. Instead of solving the problem, they are now tied up generating reports for the leader to review.



Some leaders don’t even realize there is a crisis so they don’t respond at all. They are content letting daily activities progress as they always have. Leaders in denial typically are in over their heads and therefore don’t understand the crisis or the impact of it. If you work with a person like this you will likely get asked, “What’s going on? I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

Impact: While the leader may not comprehend the crisis, the team probably does. With a leader like this, the team is left without direction or someone to coordinate the crisis management activities. There is no one to champion the team’s efforts or facilitate the resources they need to resolve the issue.



You know the type…the crisis hits and these leaders are working 70-90 hours a week. They feel they will solve the crisis by the shear number of hours they are working. Typically they are exhausted and a ghost of the person they really are.

Impact: The biggest detractor of the workhorse is the team feels they too have to keep up with the number of hours the boss is working. Everyone is tired. Creativity decreases. Morale decreases. It actually takes longer to solve the problem than it would if people were well-rested.



One of the worst leaders in the crisis is the one that wants to spend time figuring out whose fault it is. They are scouring the organization trying to determine who is the root cause of the problem. While understanding what caused a crisis to exist, there is no value in focusing on who is to blame.

Impact: People spend more time CYA-ing than solving the problem. They are reluctant to come forward with facts in case those facts may incriminate themselves.


What kind of leader is best in a crisis?

The best leader is the one who keeps the team focused on solving the issue. This leader can weed out the noise and protect the team so the team can narrow in on a solution. A leader who emerges successfully in a crisis situation is one who remains calm, pulling the emotion out of the situation and staying focused on what it will take to reach resolution. This leader stays forward-focused and does not allow finger-pointing. A great leader will ensure the team is getting the resources they need, the environment they need, and direction they need to solve the problem.

Next time you feel the pressure of a crisis situation, stop and evaluate your reaction and the impact you are having on the team. You should be the calm in the storm, providing direction and stability. Remember, the team takes their queues from you. Demonstrate the behaviors you want to see from them.

How have you successfully managed a crisis situation? What are the most important characteristics in a leader managing a crisis? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s