The emotions of a crisis: From the inside

Managing a crisis at sea

Think about the last time you were involved in responding to and managing a crisis.

A proper crisis that is.

Where lives were endangered and reputations at risk. Where events evolved erratically beyond your control. Where priorities shifted rapidly and you were required to make difficult decisions based on imperfect knowledge.

How did you feel at the beginning of the incident, during and afterwards? Exhilarated? Pressurised? Anxious? Relieved? Exhausted? Isolated?

Now think about what impact that had on your ability to function and, importantly, communicate.

Not just with those around you, but with third parties.

And, in particular, the families and next-of-kin of any employees at the centre of the incident that precipitated the crisis you then came to be managing.

Crisis management training commonly focuses on how to design response plans, put them into action and follow procedures.

It treats crisis management as an exercise in achieving technical objectives.

What is often overlooked is that crisis management is a people-orientated exercise, as much as, if not more than, a technical one.

Crises affect people physically, emotionally and psychologically. Victims and their families are affected, obviously, but so too are the people responding to and managing crises; no matter the extent of their technical expertise and/or their experience of responding to crisis situations.

And because crisis management is usually undertaken by a team of people – some who may never have met each other before, and some who work with each other every day – the stresses of a crisis undoubtedly affect the dynamics of a team and how it functions; often for the worse.

Therefore, it is vital that responders and crisis management teams understand how the dynamics of crises will affect them as individuals and as members of a team.

Managing crises effectively requires more than just the ability to overcome technical or procedural problems. It requires us to manage the physical, emotional and psychological impact crises have on people as well. In those circumstances, it is our levels of self-awareness and the strength of our interpersonal communication that will often matter most.

James Wilkes, Managing Director, Gray Page

Related article, by Dustin Eno, Navigate Response



James Wilkes of Gray Page and Dustin Eno of Navigate Response have teamed-up to create a one day course for crisis response teams and senior decision makers which focuses on the human and interhuman factors involved in dealing effectively with a crisis.
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