Covid-19: Leadership in times of crisis

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Does the coronavirus also paralyze your company? The consequences of the virus, which was unknown just a few months ago, are serious, not only for the people themselves but also for the entire economy. By avoiding any social contact, the spread of the virus is curbed, but it also makes the handling of business and the communication and organization between team members as well as between managers and employees a fiasco. Read this article to find out how you can prevent fear and panic from spreading in your company and how you can give employees a sense of security in times of crisis.

From the loss of control to fear

Many people find it difficult not to panic in such a real, severe pandemic as COVID-19. Entering and leaving many countries is forbidden, public events of the next weeks and months are cancelled, and in many factories, production has been completely stopped. That means concretely: avoid direct social contacts, switch to home office or short-time work, and stay at home as much as possible.

The information spread by the media, some of it untrue, combined with the drastic measures taken by the government and companies, is leading to a collective feeling of loss of control. The reaction to this loss of control is different for each person, but at the moment, it often manifests itself in hamster purchases of food and drugstore products, to the point of complete self-isolation. The unconscious goal is always to regain the feeling of control as much as possible. If the sense of control cannot be regained, the fear remains and leads to high-flown emotions, ill-considered actions, and interpersonal conflicts. Collective fear can spread not only in the private but also in the professional environment and lead to negative consequences. How managers deal with situations such as the current corona crisis can have a significant impact on the working atmosphere and the further development of the company. For if the bosses themselves manage to remain calm, employees are indirectly informed that there is no reason for them to panic either.

In the following, you will read some important points that can help managers deal with a crisis such as the COVID 19 outbreak to contain the panic.

Creating clarity and structure

In the current situation, it is essential to ensure the maintenance of structure and order to avoid chaos. Information about the symptoms of the virus and a precise explanation of what to do if these symptoms occur should be given. If a quarantine follows, it should also be clarified how long it should last and what the next steps are.

Employees must be informed who can be contacted for questions regarding Corona. Contact persons who can be reached by telephone and consultation hours can help to dispel uncertainties and possible rumors. These persons may come from health management or the works council, for example.


Many activities do not necessarily require a physical presence in the company and therefore lend themselves to being converted to a home office. If the organization is well thought out, team meetings and meetings with customers can be held via audio or video call, and a regular daily routine can be maintained. For the employees who are needed on-site, it is essential to introduce protocols on how social contacts should be organized. Hygiene and distance are necessary to prevent the transmission of diseases. It should also be specified what to do in the event of technical obstacles such as failure of the WiFi and communication.

Taking concerns seriously

Employees' concerns about the coronavirus itself, its spread and infection, or the consequences for their work routine, should be taken seriously in any case. Even the managers' fears and concerns should not be hidden but addressed openly and objectively.

One way to keep employees up to date with the latest information without having to resort to unreliable sources could be a newsletter. Weekly updates by e-mail or even via employer videos ensure that all employees are at the same level of knowledge. In this way, even half-truths and rumors have no chance of spreading and increasing panic.

Reflection and development

Continuous reflection on what is going well and which processes can be optimized is also important for overcoming future crises. Exchange within the company, especially across different levels, also helps to give employees a sense of unity. If they are asked for feedback and suggestions for improvement, they feel respected and valued and, as a result, less left alone with their concerns.

Getting external help

However, the corporate culture can also collapse completely because entire work processes no longer function due to quarantines or employees have to be switched to short-time work or even have to be dismissed. The emergence of fear, panic, and conflict can sometimes spread rapidly before the upper levels of an organization also have a chance to intervene. In such cases, it may be advisable to seek outside help, for example, from consultants such as zweikern, who use scientific methods to develop individually tailored and sustainable measures.

Preventive factors

To be able to manage crises in a company as well as possible, a good organizational culture is needed beforehand. A positive management style is characterized by trust, appreciation, and communication of self-efficacy. Proper conflict management, even before a crisis arises, can also be applied to times of need and helps to keep the working atmosphere positive. An overall stable relationship of trust between managers and employees ensures good cooperation and open communication not only in everyday life but also in times of crisis, such as the current one.


Even if this catastrophe has very quickly reached enormous proportions, it will also end, and normality will return, even if it will perhaps look different than before. That would be an ideal time to discuss once again with the employees which measures worked well and which less well and what could be taken from them into their everyday work.

The consequences of the coronavirus are felt by all of us and change both our private and professional lives. However, if instead of panic and selfishness, we react with reason and compassion, times like these bring us closer together. If managers remain authentic, listen to their employees, and seek joint solutions, the ideal conditions are in place for a company to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.


When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

by John F. Kennedy

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Portrait Selina Kern


Selina Kern

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