Toxic cultures and crisis management

Published: 24 October 2023

#CuriousMoments with Advita

If you’re an internal comms professional having to manage a crisis, here are five things I would advise you to do:

1) Ensure you have an invite to the crisis talks that will be taking place so you get a head start on the headlines. If your PR person is in the room, you must also be so you can get ahead of the story. You may need to push hard on this as often they will try to keep this room tight, but as internal comms, your role is to manage colleague communications – you can’t do that if you’re not brought on board early.

2) Misinformation spreads quicker than internal messaging. Your leaders mustn’t focus ALL their energy on managing just the external message. Colleagues will be looking for reassurance and frequent updates. Trust at this point will be incredibly low in leadership, so they need to see that action is being taken. In our new book, Building a Culture of Inclusivity, we share the ALLME 4A model, which can help people identify the steps to address challenging situations: Acknowledgement, Acceptance, Action and Accountability. Remember these steps when crafting messages.

3) When stories around toxic culture start surfacing, some people will begin to speak up about their personal experiences, or they may want to ask specific questions. You want to ensure that colleagues are heard. Work closely with HR at this point so you can advise and guide on the best approach.

4) Distraction and speculation will be rife – ensure you have a single source of truth so colleagues can access the information they need through their preferred platform. If there are no answers yet, then say that. Silence will cause more disruption.

5) Be mindful of your well-being. Check in with each other frequently and ensure you have a safe space to share your thoughts. When we’re in the middle of the storm, we can often forget about our mental health.

Final note. It’s not our role to fix a toxic culture but we must support and advise our leaders on best steps based on our expertise. We should know our organisation well and understand what will work and what won’t – that‘s incredibly important in a crisis. 


Originally posted on LinkedIn, Follow me for more curious moments. 

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