Tips on Managing Crisis Negotiations

Fundamental to managing a business crisis effectively is our ability to remain calm and in control, and to continue to trade while the crisis is managed. Although the crisis may be very big for us, customers and stakeholders want to continue to do business and our capacity to meet their needs while we negotiate the crisis is a major measure of our effectiveness.

There are a number of key steps in managing crises.

The first step is to recognize that crisis management is a negotiation.

We need to influence  the expectations and the reactions of key stakeholders and customers.

By clarifying our objectives and focusing on the needs and expectations of stakeholders (our other parties), we can step out of the substance of the crisis and begin to focus on the process for managing it.

The second step requires that senior staff ask the hard questions:

  • ‍What type of crisis do we have?
  • ‍Are we responding promptly and decisively?
  • ‍Are we communicating frankly and truthfully?
  • ‍Do we have the internal competencies to negotiate our way through the crisis, or do we need outside assistance?

In crisis negotiations the tendency to make rushed decisions in the heat of the moment must be avoided. Rather, it is better to think of crisis management as a process involving a series of negotiations requiring a range of decisions and judgments.

To manage this negotiation process effectively:

  • ‍Appoint a core team to manage the crisis and free others for their regular responsibilities
  • ‍Designate a single individual to handle crisis-related communication and communicate frankly to stakeholders and the news media
  • ‍Communicate directly to the company's stakeholders, including employees, customers, shareholders and regulators
  • Appoint a devil's advocate to provide a reality check on your proposed responses.

Stakeholder anxiety is enhanced when they are denied information or only drip fed selected pieces of information. If the magnitude of the crisis is unknown early, announcing that we don't know and that we have a team, a process and a time line in place lays a foundation for rebuilding confidence. Regular briefings on the process if they are frank and to the point build on that foundation.

Finally, when the crisis has passed, we need to reflect on how we managed it
and ask:

  • Did we stay calm and united, get the facts and assess the situation?
  • How did the crisis team perform?
  • How well did we communicate?
  • What did we do well and what would we do differently to improve crisis management for next time?

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

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ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 75 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

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