Caring for Employees in Times of Crisis

October 7, 2017 Business-HR Strategy 0

The World experienced overwhelming loss and heartbreak this week because of the Mass Shooting tragedy in my beautiful city, Las Vegas.  In the aftermath, we witnessed acts of love, compassion, and solidarity to help overshadow an act of evil.  During an unplanned crisis,law enforcement, first responders, and community leaders came together to contain the situation and immediately start a recovery process for the City.  They were ready.  They had strategized, prepared and rehearsed for a public safety event unknown but imminent in today’s world.

As an employer, how are you prepared to handle crisis in the workplace?  Mass tragedy or individual tragedies create feelings of devastation, loss, hopelessness, and anger.  How have you created a system for support and communication to serve your employees?

The Priority List:

Safety First

If the incident is happening in your workplace, make certain people are safe before you do anything else. Implement your disaster plan, ring the fire alarm, do whatever your company emergency evacuation plan prescribes for safety. The plan should designate a meeting location, where attendance can be taken, so you know the members of your work force are safe.

Accommodate – Cut People Some Slack

If the tragedy impacts an individual personally, offer release time, support, a ride, help obtaining information, and anything else the individual appears to need. For major and direct impacts on your workplace, decide whether to continue paying employees, even though they are not working, for a period of time. You may offer shelter, relocation, or other forms of compensation during a tragedy, too.

People cannot return to productive work immediately upon hearing about a tragedy. Understand their lack of focus. Support their need to adjust their work schedule, make calls during work, and provide alternative solutions for gaps in work product during their difficult time. Most individuals will return to productive work more quickly when their need for space, support, and information are satisfied.

Schedule Meetings to Share Information

In a national tragedy, people want to know the latest information about what is happening. They want reassurances that they and their loved ones are safe. In more personal workplace sorrows, correct information is also important.

During crisis, employees look to leaders they trust for support and guidance.  Meeting with them lets them know you care. Without breaking the confidentiality of the people involved, and with their permission, tell people as much as you can. The more legitimate information people have, the less likely they are to depend on rumors, the less time they spend seeking information.

Provide Places for People to Gather and Talk

Many people take comfort in being close to other people when tragedy strikes. You can informally provide opportunities for this interaction by creating spaces for people to gather.

Get involved in the Community

In addition to being good for business, build ongoing relationships with local care providers and non-profits.  Educate employees about local services available to them throughout the  year so when a tragedy strikes, you have a resource readily available.

Employees like to be involved and to work together to support a good cause.  Coordinating efforts to help in the Community builds respect, teamwork and loyalty in the workplace and will benefit all when an employee is in need.

In times of sorrow, when people draw together for sustenance, many want something to do to help solve the problem or to ease the situation. Providing these resources to employees makes giving easy.  Consider sponsoring paid time off for giving blood or helping out an employee who may need transportation or resources during a difficult time.

Make Supervisors and HR Staff available

Supervisors and HR staff provide critical support during tragedy. In a study done years ago by the American Psychological Association, employees overwhelmingly listed personal attention from the supervisor as one of the most rewarding aspects of work.

Free up your calendars when tragedy strikes and spend time walking through the workplace and meeting with people who need support or just a listening ear. Be visibly available.

Offer Employee Assistance

Provide services to professional counselors for your staff.  Some Companies provide Employee Assistance Programs or counseling through health plans, so it is important to make sure employees know it is available for people who need it.

Be Prepared Before Disaster or Tragedy Strikes

Every organization needs a disaster plan. Build plans for crisis events to include plans for fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and any other natural disaster that can occur in your area. All employees should be trained in the specifics of the plan.

Develop communication plans that outline how employees will be contacted during a crisis. Prepare people about what actions to take if they are confronted with potential incident in the workplace.

Make Grief Training Part of Your Training Program

When tragedy strikes, people are uncertain about what to say or do.

For example, when the spouse of a coworker dies, close work associates attend the funeral or remembrance ceremony. They may supply the family with food and time. When the employee returns to work after their bereavement leave, however, what is the appropriate way to interact?

Should they offer sympathy or encourage the person to talk about his loss? The employee is often isolated because people don’t know what to say or do, so they often do nothing.

Teach your employees about grief, the stages of grief, how to deal with grief in self and coworkers, how to tell children about a tragedy, and more. It will support your workplace positive morale, build employee self-confidence, and lessen the long-term impacts of tragedy.

Tragedies are a given, and your leadership with managing a crisis will reduce the recovery time for the affected employees and your business. As an employer, your ability to take the lead and manage crisis is critical for building respect and loyalty with your employees. Providing tools of support and open communication will help to reduce absenteeism and turnover and improve focus to maintain business performance.


Propel HR can provide recommendations for your workplace, and help you build training, communications and employee support programs.  Please contact me at or through our website,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *