Crisis Management: Three Ways to Handle a Crisis at Work

sorryIf you’ve ever been in — oh, how shall we put this? — an unpleasant situation at work, listen up. There are plenty of ways to handle a crisis at work.

The best way? Inhale. Exhale. And then own up to it.

According to a piece in The Wall Street Journal, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business weighs in on ousted Target CEO, Gregg Steinhafel’s resignation at Target. He worked for 35 years at Target Corp. and landed the CEO role in 2008. The massive credit card data breach of up to 70 million dollars likely contributed to his demise but there are definitely lessons to be learned from his rise and fall.

Dartmouth’s Paul Argenti specializes in corporate communications and management and points out a few ways in the piece to control the situation.

1. Be grand with an apology. “When you make a mistake, it makes people feel better to understand that you agree with them,” he says. Key words to remember? “I deeply regret and “I wish this hadn’t happened.” Owning up to your mistakes takes responsibility and even if you’re not working in the corner office, no matter what your level in the organization, once you take ownership it will likely lessen the blow.

He adds, “Your reputation is worth a lot more than the potential liability,” he says.

2. Explain the situation. That’s right, simply dish about the situation. In leadership positions it’s important to be transparent. Explain what happened, what you know and better yet, what you expect to happen when you receive new information. He says sometimes companies get tripped up in legal jargon but the best approach is to be direct and honest.

3. Explain what will happen next. At the CEO level, a major snafu impacts a lot of people ranging from employees to customers to shareholders. At a lower level, the impact is less severe but still important to address. Lay out specifics such as what you’re going to do next. For instance, in Target’s situation, this means communicating to customers. Argenti points out the company “needs people to feel comfortable putting down credit cards again.”