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How To Communicate During Crisis

When you are in conflict- or crisis-mode, the tendency is to get emotionally charged and that sometimes leads to folks taking actions that are unhealthy for the business.

Here are four steps that I adopted from the University of Maryland’s Leadership Program to deal with communicating during crisis or conflict:

1) Separate the People from the Problem

A good communication about conflict should focus on the underlying problem (not the person).

Two examples:

” We just discovered that we did not ship out products to certain customers over the last 10 days and now sales will be down 16% this month” (good)

“George (in Shipping) slipped up and forgot to confirm that our shipping facility received our go-ahead to ship products out this month…and our sales are plummeting” (bad)

If you indeed do have a person-problem, then deal with the problem as a relationship problem by talking directly to the person you have a problem with (i.e. George)

2) Generate a Variety of Possible Solutions before Deciding What to Do

Don’t assume there is just one solution.


“After discussing this with all of you, we have two potential solutions:

  • Do nothing and just ship the customers their products late
  • Send an apology email to each customer that their shipment will be late and that they will receive a bonus product as a thank you for their patience.”

And it doesn’t have to be your solution versus your team’s solution.

3) Insist That Results Be Based On Some Objective Standard.


  • Efficiency
  • Profitability
  • Cash flow
  • Ethics

That way, you and your team can measure how you get out of the crisis/conflict.

And if you’re involved in a conflict and feeling angry about it, this Chinese Proverb has proven invaluable to many people:

“Never write when you’re angry.”

It’s better to pause, collect your thoughts first and even talk to a colleague if you can…then start writing when you’re more calm.

Your communication will now be more effective.