Human-centric Crisis Management: Nurturing Resilient Teams in Hi-tech Environments

16 Apr 2024

In such a rapidly evolving industry as tech, where disruptions belong to everyday life, the ability to manage these occurrences is central to maintaining the continuity of operations, and the practice of doing so is widely known as crisis management.

In the context of the digital domain, the thing that comes to the fore when an accident arrives is how to save sensitive information from hackers or raise servers from the dead, e.g., technical aspects of the matter.

What eludes one’s attention in this rush for a quick patch is how these occurrences affect the people responsible for cleaning this mess, while the consequences run from mere distress caused by the emergency of immediate action to a nervous breakdown. Unless a CEO means to blow the entire company budget on replacing burnt-out staffers every now and then, it is paramount to take precautionary care not only of the software but also of the people who stand at the front of its protection from accidents.

This type of crisis management that gives precedence to the staff is defined as human-centered, and those who develop this approach know perfectly well that better preparation of your people for troubles (both in mental and practical terms) increases the probability that their actions will actually help to override the issue, not exacerbate the situation.

Leaning back on the principles of this methodology, I suggest the following steps for taking precautionary care of your subordinates to foster their robustness throughout all three stages of a crisis.

Stage 1. Preparing for the Worst

Though any business can find itself affected by situations that may lead to a crisis, the types of incidents vary greatly from one company to another, even within the digital realm. Consequently, the first step toward a resilient team is to identify what problems the technology you rely upon may open the door to.

Spare no effort on blindspot analysis; once done, it will save you money and nerve cells. Next, when potential breaches are identified, it is time to prepare a crisis management plan—a plan of actions your team is expected to take when the disaster steps over your threshold.

The more detailed your catastrophe road map is charted, the greater the chances that the issue being tackled will go smoothly and will take place in a timely manner because your company population will know exactly what to do. The major danger that awaits you at this point is to put this plan on the most remote shelf and forget about it until the need arises. Make sure that everyone on your team is acquainted with its contents and can enact them which necessitates fire drills.

Simulations of the emergency will highlight weaknesses in the plan and the system in general and showcase team performance which will facilitate your understanding of the business’ preparedness for such occasions. The gaps the drill exposed should be documented and then discussed with the team to show its members how to deal with them.

While malfunction simulations will help you spot weaknesses in the system, you are still running the risk of countermeasures going pear-shaped if you are unaware of breaches in the psychological immunity of those who are supposed to face them first. Thus, the next step to take if you seek to improve the robustness of your team is to understand what is capable of breaking them down. Have a talk with each of the team members and identify what stresses them out.

Some people easily endure the pressure at the moment but melt down under the continuous torrent of small bugs, or they just won’t be able to deal with the storm of scolding critique from infuriated clients. I bet that one of the major stressors to name will be a fear of making a mistake.

Under mentally taxing circumstances, this fear may paralyze the individual’s will to take an action that is dictated by the situation but not outlined in the plan, which may ruin the entire operation. This psychological safety is the bedrock of resilience. That is why it is critically important to show empathy to your subordinates and foster a working environment where an error is a source of knowledge, not a reason for reprimand.

These talks will help you get an idea of whom you can place on the disaster recovery team—a dedicated group of people who will shoulder addressing the matter in progress—and whom you can put at the helm as a disaster recovery (DR) leader.

Stage 2. In the Midst of a Disaster.

When chaos unfolds, it is important to identify whether it is fully digital in character or whether it may do physical damage to your staff. The recent pandemic and a string of armed conflicts erupting across the world reminded us that death danger can transcend the boundaries of imagined probability, so the protection of your employees against such emergencies is an item to include in the plan.

Naturally, physical safety is one of our basic necessities, and ensuring it at the workplace is the employer’s duty, so double-check that your people are protected from injury.

Furthermore, there is nothing more destabilizing in the moment of danger than unclarity and a sense of lostness caused by a lack of communication and information in general. Thus, keeping the involved up-to-date and providing overall transparency provides them with the level of certainty that forms the solid foundation for a reassured action.

What goes hand in hand with informational support is the demonstration that everything goes according to plan: stay calm and collected, and set the example of sangfroid. Panic is contagious, so nipping it in the bud will reduce the stressfulness of the situation.

As a continuation of your effort to bolster the mental robustness of your team at the moment, demonstrate to your employees that they are not abandoned to their own devices. There should be a leader who coordinates their actions and points them in the right direction, unfolding a safety net of prompts for occasions when a gap in the protocol calls for a senior manager’s instructions.

The right step taken at the right moment will solidify the employee’s confidence in their own abilities to handle a challenge and, as an entailment, boost their mental resistance to tech mishaps.

Stage 3. Crisis Aftermath

When a crisis is over, the serenity of its aftermath tempts the possibility of consigning it to oblivion. Yet, even though the storm subsided, it is not the time to sit back and relax. Just like a fire drill demands documentation of its results and progress, the real disaster requires a detailed breakdown of the actions and behaviors of the entire team. Moreover, while a simulation may prompt you on the blindspots in the crisis management plan, your employees still know that it is a simulation, so their behavior under real circumstances may digress drastically from what is expected because of the higher level of stress.

Consequently, documenting your team’s moves throughout the accident will highlight a) who proved to be more resilient to the disaster and why; and b) which mitigation tactics proved to be effective when enacted by real people on the ground. Keeping track of mistakes helps to adjust the CMP and choose the people who are more fit for a place on the crisis team.

A good idea is to arrange a meeting where employees could share their experiences of being in the eye of chaos, what helped them to override it, and what, all the way around, impeded faster resolution.

After hitting the hot iron of recording actions during the crisis, fostering resilience in your team demands tackling the imprint the accident might have left on the minds of those who bore the brunt. A corporate psychologist will perfectly do this job for you, or you can at least subsidize a visit or two to a shrink on the side.

An honest, one-on-one talk with each participant where you will praise them for apt steps and subtly mention the points for improvement also has the power of alleviating the pressure, helping them slough off the remorse for missteps, learn their lessons, and move on.

Wrapping Up

However, challenging the laser focus on people at a tech-driven company may be, if you seek to steadily come on top of any hurdle impeding your way, paying attention to the well-being of your employees is imperative.

Nurturing resilient teams in hi-tech environments requires mitigation of issues’ effects on people's physical and mental health and calls for creating a space where they feel supported and comfortable sharing their experiences, equipping themselves with hands-on knowledge on handling crises, and adapting to changing situations.