Equipping Your Employees and Company for the Worst

When people encounter high pressure situations, their bodies react in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze.  What some employers do not recognize is that when employees find themselves in unexpected high stress situations, more often than not, workers freeze and are unable to adequately deal with the situation unfolding around them.

So how can employers prepare employees for these situations?  Here are a few tips:

    1. Act It Out: Role playing is an effective method for employees to see the right and wrong way to deal with emergency situations.  Not only does it allow employees to react naturally and see firsthand whether or not their instincts worked in a controlled environment, they also learn the proper way to handle crisis situations.  In other words, they are provided the tools and are allowed to learn in the process.
    2. Phone-y Conversations: Angered customers will often call employees to vent.  But sometimes, these discussions turn verbally abusive.  Here are a few cues which allow employees to take the conversation in a more positive direction:
      1. “Mr. Jones, can I ask you a question?”—This will suppress an angered customer’s verbal outburst and cause them to lose their train of thought.
      2. Try using empathy.  “I understand what you have said and I’d like to assist you with this problem, but I need you to lower your voice and not curse, otherwise I cannot focus my energy to solving this issue for you.”—Usually, people will respond to this by de-escalating their behavior.
      3. If they continue their tirade, try: “Mr. Jones, if you’re still upset, will you please call back when you’ve cooled down?” –The strategy behind this language is to disengage the customer and give them an opportunity to call back when they are cooler, calmer, and collected so the conversation will travel in a more positive direction.
    3. Speak in Code: Having a code word or pre-determined way to deal with high pressure situations provides employees with a game plan and will hopefully allow them to call for backup/security should that be necessary.
    4. Write It Down: Litigation often will ensue after a high pressure situation.  In such scenarios, people will often have different recollections of the events.  As a result, employees should always write down exactly what happened as close as possible to when the situation ends.  That way, employers and companies will be legally protected from potential liability in the future.  Some companies even video the employees involved having the employees tell the story.
    5. Call a Counselor: Though some might be handling high stress situations just fine, it is a good idea to have a counselor on call or available for employees should they need it.
    6. Be Positive: Expressing appreciation and encouragement to employees that they successfully made it through a traumatic situation may assist them in dealing with any emotional repercussions and will build team morale.  Remember that isolation is the enemy of traumatic stress recovery.
    7. Keep an Eye on Everyone: Look out for any emotional red flags such as crying, panic attacks, depression, etc from employees who have recently dealt with high pressure situations.  This sort of behavior is a sign that employees need additional help and time to deal with their past experience.
    8. Is Public Relations Necessary?  If the owners/leaders of the company determine that the business might be in jeopardy of negative public perception, we suggest dealing with the press and public quickly.  In today’s environment, dealing with negative public perception quickly is essential.  Hiring an experienced public relations firm can be a real plus.

We hope these suggestions will help when your business faces stressful situations.  Please feel free to contact us if you have questions.