This episode of a podcast from Reuters features an interview with Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping business leaders in crisis. She identifies 3 phases in a workplace in reaction to crises: emergency, regression, and recovery.
In the emergency phase, a team’s “energy rises and performance goes up,” and even though everyone is aware there is a crisis, “the teamwork feels quite extraordinary.” However, this “rush” doesn’t last forever, and eventually the team succumbs to the next phase.
In the regression phase, the team’s performance and energy fall, and “people become the worst version of themselves.” Wedell-Wedelsborg advises that in order to make it out of this phase, a leader will need to be very much in tune with “the underlying emotions in yourself and your team.” She advises leaders to take care to ask team members if they are doing okay, and to foster an environment where people can share emotions in the workplace. The risk of not doing this, she says, is for the team to lose their sense of motivation and the perspective of their mission.
In the recovery phase, the goal is to bring back the energy of the emergency phase and get rid of the “primitive” feelings of the regression phase. However, Wedell-Wedelsborg warns, “Don’t think of this recovery phase as just going back to work and adopting your old habits – don’t reopen, renew.” She calls this “a free New Year’s resolution round – you’re forced to make changes.”
Around 23:00 in the recording, she summarizes her advice to leaders in how to move from the regression phase to the recovery phase.