When All You Do is Crisis Management…And No, You Don’t Work in Disaster Response!

We have all had those days. You know…the kind where you are making umpteen phone calls, trying to pacify disgruntled seniors/juniors/stakeholders at various levels. Then, you realise that you have to send all these important emails. Then, in between, you are told that an important government official/senior donor representative is visiting the office. Of course, you have to be there. You may even have to make a presentation. Then when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, someone from one of the field areas calls to say that there is a minor crisis there. He/she is desperately trying to be brave on the phone. But you know that he/she needs a good 15-20 minutes of ‘it’s ok…don’t worry’ kind of conversation IMMEDIATELY. And then, your boss calls out – Can you come here? I need you to do something.

You spend the entire day rushing from one task to another. Then, the next day goes like that and the one after that. Before you know it, the week’s over! Your planned tasks and deadlines smirk at you from the calendar that you had prepared (with misguided hope).

I worked like that at one time. It was quite overwhelming. I had been hired to do documentation. I did manage to do a little bit of that. But mostly, I ended up making a lot of to-do lists and trying to live up to them. My coordinator once tried to console me by saying – This is also great documentation. You should publish your lists!

In the following years, I realised that many others lived/were living through similar experiences in other organisations. The sector or state was immaterial. Many of us just seemed to spending all our energy on crisis management of one kind or another!

Some even seemed to thrive in such an environment. But even those who don’t, do eventually walk away with some special skills – multitasking, patience, quick reflexes, adaptability, diplomacy and some solid role playing! All that does help, especially when the next crisis happens.