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Jennifer Newman: Scandal and crisis control at work

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman explains what employees and employers can do to work through a crisis

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman explains what employees and employers can do to work through a crisis

If you find yourself exhausted at work, it might require taking some time off, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman. (iStock)

It's not always smooth sailing in today's workplace. Things go wrong. Changes get made. Budgets get slashed. Or scandal rocks a company's reputation.

The stress of it all can impact employees, but there are things workers and their employers can do to better handle a crisis or change at work.

"We're seeing more and more with social media, companies and organizations being held to account in the public from a scandal point of view," workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman told The Early Edition`s Rick Cluff in reference to the firing of former CBC host Evan Solomon.

Former CBC Power and Politics host Evan Solomon was fired by CBC News in the wake of a scandal concerning his involvement in alleged secret art deals with people he'd interviewed on TV. (CBC)

"That's very hard for employees who are staying within organizations because they can sometimes feel embarrassed or upset about what is being said about their company."

A lot of people take a lot of pride in their organizations, she says, so scandals or an internal crisis can really affect morale if it's not dealt with appropriately.

"If there is a crisis or big change there will be feelings of fear and worry. If staff get hijacked by these emotions, they don`t do well. They get caught in a vicious cycle," said Newman.

Staff can experience emotional strain that impairs their ability to focus or think clearly. First come feelings of fear, worry or anxiety, she says. That can be followed by a loss of concentration and an inability to process information. All of this compounds to lead to poor decisions.

But there are things workers can do to cope.

What workers can do

Newman says it's important for employees to work on their resiliency skills and make coping well an achievement.

"Actively dispute negative beliefs when bad things happen," she said, "Find the challenge in the crisis."

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says employees and employers can do things to cope through scandals at work (Jennifer Newman)

She says it's important to accept the lack of control that comes with certain situations, but to focus on what you can control, even if it's just your own temper.

To illustrate her point, she told the story of an IT professional who got laid off. He had worked hard in his area, but he missed chances to meet upper management. After the layoff, he first thought, "They were out to get me."

He countered the thought with, "I could network more in the next organization I work at."

"Think about solutions to things and stay away from blaming, negative people and fault finding," Newman said.

What employers can do 

Organizations should make an effort to train staff in emotional intelligence and resiliency, she says.

It's also important to talk to staff about what's going on and take action quickly when there`s a crisis.

For the employees that continue working at an organization dealing with a scandal, it can be tough, so it`s important for management to make an effort to show appreciation for their work. A little show of gratitude goes a long way.

"Increase your appreciation of staff efforts," said Newman. "Gratitude during adversity helps people cope."

To hear the full interview with Jennifer Newman listen to the audio labelled Workplace Column - Scandal and crisis

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