Crisis!!! Deploy the 3Rs – Recognize, Reconfigure, Reset

Working relationships among team members will adjust over time, as people try out different voices and take on a variety of leading and supporting roles to pursue collaborative efforts. Strong leaders

pay attention to these natural shifts by adjusting motivators, recognition, and success metrics to mirror the expanding productivity of the group and individual team members. When a crisis occurs that unexpectedly disturbs established roles, leaders may find themselves needing to reconfigure and reset team expectations several times as team members adapt to the group’s new normal.


The three most often occurring unexpected crisis initiators are: serious illness, personal bereavement, and resignation. None of these crisis events can be anticipated or prevented. And rarely is there any warning before the upheaval.


In the case of a resignation or the death of an individual, team members will need to work through various phases of grief. Watching people’s reactions to the initial loss and workplace adaptations as they adjust workloads to normalize the situation can help you learn a great deal about the “grief” stage of the affected workgroup.


Three of the most common “voices” that arise are:

The Hard Worker insists on following procedures and adheres to deadlines

The Empathizer listens carefully and helps people identify their concerns

The Accommodator brings many voices together to determine how to close gaps


Expecting a working team to continue in a “business as usual mode” is not realistic. Leaders need to work toward establishing a balance between the Hard Worker and Empathizer roles as they communicate the loss and try to understand the impact of the loss for the group. Maintaining an open perspective will encourage people who take on the Accommodator role to help the team achieve short term objectives and help you lay the ground work for necessary organizational resource/responsibility changes.


When the upheaval is a serious illness or personal bereavement, the leader’s role is more complicated

because the initial balance includes the needs of the person who is affected. This individual must

quickly transition their work but want to remain connected in some way. Leader’s need to remember that individuals will react to personal challenges differently. Encourage direct and regular communications. Reach out and monitor the worker’s response and feedback.


When someone returns from bereavement leave or the initial medical treatment, they may “say” they are ready to resume their role on the team, but they may need to make some changes also. It is natural for returning workers to be more focused on personal priorities and it is short-sighted for you to expect them to immediately regain their laser focus. Most important of all do NOT make this decision for them.


Communicate with the worker whose personal life has been turned upside down. Offering support or relief of certain responsibilities may be welcome; in fact, they may not have considered the option. This may be an excellent opportunity for a junior person to shadow them and they can direct their energies toward honing their mentorship skills. When the temporary accommodation is completed, the entire team quite possibly will have grown as a benefit of an innovative interim solution.



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