Resilience: Preparing Employees for Unforeseen Crisis | EAPA-SA

The way leaders of an organisation prepare and respond to unforeseen critical events can determine how well the organisation and its people will recover. It will determine the ability to survive and emerge as a stronger entity, prepared to face future crises. Resilience is central to an organisation’s ability to withstand the outcomes of a crisis. It improves employees’ ability to respond to change without the stress and frantic reactions associated with disastrous setbacks or extended periods of upheaval. 


Anatomy of an organisational crisis

A crisis situation in the workplace can disrupt day-to-day operations, damage reputations, destroy shareholder value, and trigger other threats. The easiest way to identify a crisis that affects the workplace is to assess the problem for three key elements.

  • First, the problem must pose an imminent threat to the organisation.
  • Next, the situation must involve an element of surprise or shock.
  • Finally, due to the severity of the problem as well as its unexpected nature, the situation will place pressure on the business to make timely and effective decisions. 

“Knowing the various elements that could precipitate a business crisis can be instrumental in identifying these problems before it is too late.”

What types of crises could organisations encounter?

Knowing the various elements that could precipitate a business crisis can be instrumental in identifying these problems before it is too late. Crises can include:

  • Natural Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic, which took the whole world by surprise, immediately springs to mind, as a global natural crisis that impacted organisations and citizens alike. 

  • Organisational Crisis 

These are crisis situations where an organisation has significantly wronged its consumers or employees.

The three types of organisational crises are:

  • Crisis of Deception: This type of crisis occurs when a company knowingly lies about public-facing product information or tampers with public-facing data.
  • Crisis of Management Misconduct: This type of crisis is a result of management willingly and knowingly engaging in illegal activities.
  • Crisis of Skewed Management Values: This type of crisis results when senior leadership emphasizes short-term financial gains over social responsibility and neglects the interests of stakeholders such as customers and employees. 
  • Personnel Crisis

Personnel crises occur when an employee dies or someone employed or associated with the company is involved in unethical or illegal misconduct.

  • Workplace Violence Crisis

A workplace violence crisis occurs when a current or former employee commits violence against other employees. These crises can come on suddenly, and it can be difficult to act in time before it escalates or becomes fatal. 

  • Financial Crisis

Typically, this is caused by a significant drop in demand for the product or service.

  • Technological Crisis

In today’s tech-driven age, organisations heavily rely on technology to perform day-to-day functions. When their technology systems crash or are hacked, they have way more to worry about than a few lost emails. 


Prepare your employees for organisational crisis through building their resilience 

Resilience is critical to withstanding unforeseen crises. Merely returning to “business as usual” after a crisis – even if it does include successfully embracing the new normal – is not enough to develop a resilient employee culture that will withstand the next critical incident. Resilience differs from coping or “making it through”, in that it intentionally prepares individuals to take on board any sudden changes or interim turmoil, to improvise and contend with the next challenge, despite setbacks. 

“Resilience is critical to withstanding unforeseen crises.”

  • Communicate to remind people about their work’s greater purpose

An emotional connection occurs when employees can see their work’s larger meaning, leading to a strong drive and sense of purpose. Being invested in a clear vision of their purpose within the organisation employees to stay focused during challenging times. Rather than compromising, they are willing to go the extra mile and make sacrifices to fulfil their greater ideals. In this way, resilient teams are made up of individuals who put their heads down and strive to achieve their goals despite being in the midst of a crisis. 


  • Invest in employees to nurture a passionate workplace culture

Social scientists agree, employees develop an abiding passion when they are challenged intellectually within their career path while receiving the necessary skills to grow and flourish. An organisation that invests in its employees and simultaneously aligns their workers’ intrinsic interests with their work functions not only raises morale and productivity, but also stimulates the desire for their people to improve their abilities. And, it increases their ability to rebound from setbacks. 


  • Inspire team autonomy

Encouraging and supporting self-organising teams who are trusted to decide how best to perform tasks creates better teamwork and ownership. Rather than being micro-managed and second-guessed, empowered teams meet frequently of their own bat to work through problems, track progress and set new improvement targets. These people see the whole picture and recognise that they can accomplish more by working as a team. In turn, their productivity further increases the team’s creative thinking and problem-solving abilities, which are critical to tackling adaptive challenges. 


  • Create an environment in which compassion prevails

During times of organisational challenge, leaders should openly show empathy to encourage compassion in their employees and create a subsequent compassionate response throughout the organisation. Creating an environment in which individuals can express their feelings freely and explore questions encourages healing. When employees no longer suppress their emotions, they can refocus on work while reconciling. These caring gestures contribute to the employees’ ability to learn and recover from future setbacks. And, leaders’ emotional involvement helps to reduce pain, build long-lasting trust and strengthen loyalty.


  • Strengthen team camaraderie

Acknowledgement makes people feel appreciated and motivates them to continue to perform. It is essential to take the time to publically recognise employees who have gone above and beyond to get the job done. And, celebrating team successes is a great team-building exercise that motivates a sense of connection and belonging. It also helps foster better team interaction and relationships and fosters inspiration.


Organisational resilience does not happen overnight. It takes time and consistency to strengthen employees’ resilience. To do so, organisations must create a strong sense of purpose and belonging, cultivate employees’ passion to build perseverance, and engage employees by demonstrating compassion and authenticity during challenging times.

Photo by Ann H