How to Handle a Project Crisis in the Workplace

So you’re sitting there looking at your email, checking your calendar, you look at the clock and it’s last thing on a Friday and everything’s going swimmingly. Then, all of a sudden – you receive a little pop-up at the corner of your screen reading *URGENT- READ ASAP problems…* or somthing like that. (It’s even got the small read flag of death!) Then your world crashes down around you, as a crisis has been caused and you need to clean it up. Fast. How can these situations be dealt with?


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During the Crisis


Your team need to know what’s wrong and what needs to be done ASAP.This will give everyone the chance to get started as fast as possible on making things right. Everyone should be on the same page and know what they need to do. It might not be enough sending out a mass email, so schedule a meeting pronto to explain the ins and outs.

If what’s happened hasn’t come from your client then let them know the situation. Don’t just tell them there’s been a crisis, that’ll only make them panic. Instead, let them know that something’s gone wrong, that you’re working on it and will keep them updated.

Delegate and Prioritize

With risk of sounding like a broken record here at Allthings, this step is definately up there as one of  the most important. Write down a detailed list of what needs to be done to solve the crisis. Not sure what exactly needs to be done? Write down things which will reduce the impact of the crisis (and find someone who can tell you exactly what needs to be done!) Now look at the list and begin dividing up tasks to your team members. For improved efficiency, delegate certain tasks to people who have more experience or are better suited to that job. Finally, make it clear to your team which tasks are the most important and should be prioritized over others. Now may not be the time for post-its on the whiteboard or a long email chain, see how a flexible and fast agile approach can help:

Remain Calm & Be nice

Yes, it may be cliché but it remains true in any crisis – business or otherwise. While the adrenaline from the initial panic is good for helping you sort things out, too much stress can negatively affect you and your team. (Including not getting enough sleep, which as we saw on Tuesday isn’t so good.) If your team see you agitated they may suspect you aren’t in control or find it difficult to talk to you. This can cause friction in your team, which isn’t what you want in a crisis.

Remaining calm doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be nice. Yep, I’m talking passive aggression my friends. We’ve all been there and it can just be as bad as in-your-face hostility. With the added pressure of an unusually fast-approaching deadline or removing a company-wide virus from the system, it can be easy to become irritable because things aren’t getting done, or just at the fact it’s gone wrong in the first place. Like remaining calm, appearing approachable to your staff will make it easier for them to communicate any further issues or developments, allowing you to ensure the situation returns to normal in record time.

Encourage Those Around you to Follow your Example

It’s all very well you sitting there dealing with the crisis all zen, but when those around you are running around like headless chickens, that’s when progress slows down. When you’re delegating tasks, outline the calm approach you want your team to take, everyone will remain professional-looking in the company and from an external perspective.


Preventing a Crisis


In her article How To Manage Crises While Maintaining Workplace Productivity, Laura Stack highlights the importance of pre-crisis planning:

“Even when all seems well, you sometimes have to stop for a moment and take a good look around. A broad view will give you a better chance of seeing things as they come over the horizon. After all, forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes. True productivity requires more than just focus, drive, and determination; as I’ve emphasized many times, it also means putting systems and processes in place to monitor your workflow and safeguard it when things go awry.”

Use the Right Tools

We’re talking hardware and software here folks. Cloud storage is definitely in vogue and for good reasons. Physical damage to hardware such as computer viruses or your PC dying on you can result in the loss of very important information. Invest in a system which ensures any and all important documents are stored safely and securely. In addition, make sure any hardware (from printers to PCs) are in good condition and can handle the job at hand effectively.

Talk Talk Talk

Open and honest communication is key to predicting or anticipating a crisis. Even if it’s just to stop someone springing their retirement on you, starting dialogues early on will allow you to plan and make allowances for any paternity/maternity leave or any office change which could disrupt the usual flow. As president and CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Jonathan Bernstein states: “Someone usually knows that trouble is brewing, usually sufficiently in advance to allow it to be headed off or, at least, damage minimized.”

Furthermore, It’s not just internal communications which can be improved, establishing a good rapport with clients and anyone outside your business is crucial for sometimes preventing, or at least minimising a crisis. Explaining what’s happened as soon as possible will alleviate some of the fallout, and keep communications strong and prevent a small problem becoming a massive crisis.

Knowing what to do in a crisis can be the difference between handling it in a calm manner, allowing you to sort everything out as soon as possible or letting the disaster take hold of you and your team, stopping things getting done. So, do you have any tips for handling a crisis? Let us know in the comment’s below. To find out how allthings can help you in a crisis, click here!

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