15 F-Worded Communication Tactics to Manage Personal and Professional Crises and Conflicts, in Institutions, Organizations, and the Work World

Crises, conflicts, and employee-employer–client-customer problems are the stock issues in life and living. Crises of one kind or the other are the most common of things that would confront everyone and every institution in their lifespan.

Crises happen, when all of us least imagined. It is part of living and engaging in our four dimensions to productive existence: physical, mental, spiritual, and as social-emotional beings [Refers to #40 in the Series — -7 Reasons Not to Quit…].

With crises follow or emerge the struggles for victory, to win, to sustain, to bounce back, overcome, re-emerge, and become whole again. The tactics toward the overall strategy of renewal and victory vary from one person to another; from one institution, organization, or agencies to another. But there are similar and very well-known trajectories to calming the storms and re-engaging the structures in place, to regain the organizations’ shattered images, reputations, or personalities, and professions or corporate identities.


When crises of one form or the other erupt in personal, organizational, and/or corporate business settings, two ways individuals as well as these institutions re-establish their existence and operations, are usually to fight or flee.

In the simplest and well-tried reactions couched and exploited in fight (that is where the opposing parties dowse gas/petrol into the fire, and with gloves in hands, ready to do battle); or flight (that is, running away and taking off to avoid the crises or conflict). Conflicts and crises have been avoided or confronted; contained or prolonged using both, or either of these tactics.

I have added thirteen more tactics from f-worded terms: (1) flattering (overly expressing words of praise and compliments to victims in crises to calm them down and uplift their morales and spirits); (2) feigning (as in pretending to be ignorant of the conflict or crisis); (3) fawning (as in kowtowing to stakeholders, victims, aggressors, peers, colleagues, or supervisors); (4) finagling (as when colleagues in crises, or corporations hit by bad news act in dishonest ways to get around, and through the crises);(5) forgetting (as in, it never happened, or “I don’t recall that incident.”); (6) freezing (stone-faced muteness with rigidity, on, and to the spot in a standstill like a statute); (7)fault-finding,(blaming the victim and overly critical to pile-on);(8) faking (is outright lies and deceptions with fabrications and forgeries to cover one’s tracks); and(9) fudging (that is characterized by evading, and dodging the issues involved in the conflict or problem at hand). All of these tactics tend to be on the negative and manipulative side of crises and conflicts management. The actors and managers or individuals adopting either one, and/or a combination of these tactics are avoiding difficult situations by covering up, and sugar-coating precarious situations.

On the positive side, I have,(#10) focus (to denote the crises managers’ commitment and determination to communicate optimism with the underlying script that says, “This too will pass.” “We are in control of the situations.” “We will be giving you more details as the crises unfold, and more facts become available.” The main advantage of renewed focus in crises situation is that it makes the men and women at the center of the storm very human. That is, they accept that something catastrophic has occurred; but that they are on top of it.

The focus on the winning attitude is quickly followed with (#11) forward-looking and forward-moving communication tactics. The typical phrases communications managers would use to appease the victims and stakeholders in the case of corporations are, “We are moving on”; We are not stopping”; “This crisis or accusations or allegations cannot stop us”; “We must not stop.”; “We are looking beyond this crisis into the future with strength and better profits, and increased productivity (in the case of corporate crises).”

The third tactic on the positive side is (#12) following-up on these promises to do better and perform higher. Several actions would be undertaken by managent to transition from crises mode to normalcy.

Then lastly are concerted and renewed efforts to (#13) following-through by actually doing the deeds as promised, toward renewal, reconstruction, reconciliation, and sustenance.

I want to sound a note of caution here, that I am making a clear conceptual distinction in this article, between strategy and tactics. Tactics are subsets of communication strategies. Tactics build up toward strategies.

On the larger end, strategies are all-encompassing and all-inclusive of the different and differentiating tactics. For example, winning a war is the grand strategy. To do so would involve a plethora of tactics.

Every communication strategy has multiple tactics that can be layered on top of each other spatially, or sequentially, or simultaneously to accommodate specific instances, that in the words of a renowned rhetorician, Lloyd Bitzer, elicit such rhetorical responses to exigencies that call them into place. Strategies aim at and towards the missions, the visions, purposes, goals, and the objectives of the institutions (Lloyd Bitzer, 1968, The Rhetorical Situation).

I am not looking at the synonyms for these words either. But I implore interested readers to examine the antonyms for each, to ascertain the appropriateness of each of the fifteen terms as communication tactics befitting of crises management communication, intent to preserve and advance the overarching visions of the entities concerned, in the overall strategy.

In public relations practices, business, professional, corporate communications, as well as political communications circles, we practitioners often advise candid and rapid response to any crises. It is the practitioners’ beliefs that in letting the events unfold before giving more and specific detailed responses, the crises managers would be able to give on-the-spot- assessments to the general public and stakeholders. Thus, we first advise reaction, and then next come responses.

Responses are more detailed and factual communications that are released in spurts and interludes to meet the crises as they unfold.

Everyone who has had a share of crises in one time and place or the other, has used crises management tactics. The wife or husband who avoids the other and thereby creating emotional and physical distances between them is adopting a tactic. The colleague at work who snipes at another during office meetings is using a tactic. The boss who “forgets” an emplyee’s request for a day off is using tactics. The airline that keeps passengers overnight with an excuse of engine malfunction that needs immediate repairs is using tactics for known reasons.

Several advantages accrue to honest and candid responses and accounts in crises or conflict communications:

First, it affords all parties to be informed on the situation.

Second, it accords credibility to the institutions, or persons directly impacted, for their capacity as managers to admit of errors and be humble and humane about their fallibleness.

Third, it allows all interested persons and the affected to grasp the situations and thus give a collective sense of calm.

Fourth, it affords the managers the ability to take control of the crises and monitor the directions at their own pace and with their own institutional goals in mind.

Fifth, crises management or even employee-employer disputes that have escalated beyond the walls and corridors of the corporation provide all sides the window to put their best feet forward; to see the crises or conflict as invitations to change, renewal, re-invigoration, and to admit of need for changes toward rebuilding, re-branding, and reconstitution of the corporate, as well as personal images, brands, and visions.

Sixth, accepting the ensuing changes, means that all stakeholders are renewing their commitments toward the general missions and goals of the enterprise; and that opportunities have just presented themselves to do even better than previously was the case. If individuals were directly involved as in employee-employer squabbles, collegial or peer-to-peer feuds, it provides an opportune moment to take off in new directions.

Lastly, blow-by-blow responses or announcements on the crises give the general public a sense of direction, assurance, and permanence in change, in their collective consciousness that afterall, it is not the end of the world as they once knew it; and that things would get betterwith time and patience.

Crises management communications are essential components to branding and image management for corporations, institutions, organizations, as well as individuals. In fact, they serve the unique purposes to share, manage, consummate, perpetuate, and disseminate core ideas, values, visions, and philosophies of the entities concerned.

Organizations, corporations, and even individuals interested in managing their brands must guard against negative perceptions due their adoption of fraudulent tactics to managing disasters and crises.

Crises bring out the best and the worst in all humans. The tactics invented, used, misused, and/or abused reflect the goals, visions, purposes, and core values and objectives of the stakeholders.

Crises are part of the hazards of living and existing in a competitive world. Everyone and every corporation must have in place tools and mechanisms to respond to crises as honestly as possible, when they are hit. It pays no dividends in the end, to employ any of the negative tactics identified here. It is sure more profitable to exploit the positive tactics I have enumerated here. Nevertheless, in the heat of crises, like the doctor in the emergency unit with a near-death patient on the operation table, all options are exploited, to keep the patient alive; and some of the tactics for survival may not follow the standard operating procedures

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