In the event of a crisis, you will face public scrutiny, stress, and a slew of emotions that can affect your judgment. One of the most prominent emotions is embarrassment. If your company is being constantly criticized, or even worse, your personal judgment is to blame, you may be tempted to hide or ignore the problem. Rather than facing humiliation, many corporate leaders try to minimize the issue or completely duck away from addressing it directly. This is a natural reaction, but one that mustn’t take over your ability to effectively handle a crisis situation.
When your company is crumbling under public scrutiny, do you face the heat or shy away? The answer should be obvious, but it’s not always easy to make the right choice. Here are some reasons why facing the embarrassment of a crisis is much easier than hiding it:
The truth will come out. No one is ever able to fully cover a crisis, nor are they ever able to “brush it off” when the truth is revealed. Being the first to come clean and address the issue head-on will allow you to avoid the spread of misleading information. If the truth doesn’t come from your own team, it will inevitably escape from a different source, likely one that isn’t on your side. Don’t let a lie or miscommunication ruin your reputation permanently.
If you are honest, people will want to be on your side. You may have heard the phrase, “If you tell me the truth, you won’t get in trouble;” it applies not just to children who have disappointed their parents, but to companies who have disappointed the public. Honesty is the only way to regain trust with your stakeholders or consumers. “Coming clean” with your mistakes makes it easier for them to believe that you genuinely want to address and avoid the issue in the future.
Those affected deserve to know the truth, even if they don’t want to know it. In some cases, ignorance truly is bliss. But if your company crisis will affect the lives of those who did not cause it, they need to know. A financial crisis within a corporation may cause employees to lose their jobs, and they need to know that the cutbacks were not their fault. A blunder in public relations may cause a company’s stock value to drop, and investors need to know why it happened. Even if the truth hurts, it still needs to be heard.
You can only recover from the mistakes you acknowledge. The first step to avoiding the problem in the future is to admit that someone or a group of decision-makers caused it, and that mistake cannot happen again. That doesn’t mean that the person was to blame – they could be misinformed or made a one-time lapse in judgment from which they can learn. But you must address what went wrong with a humble attitude before things start to get better.