How to Get Through a Disaster at Work
Career Advice,  ChampLeaders Boot Camp

How to Get Through a Disaster at Work

You’ve been there.

That time when your boss asked what went wrong in a project, deliverable,  or email and many more.

And there you were wondering how to tell your boss what happened.

You were thinking, “how am I going to say this without sounding defensive/offensive ?”

“How the heck can I get through this?”

I have been there. And like you, I was once staring on my screen thinking the same thing.

It’s inevitable that something will not go as planned.

Heck, if you’ve been in operations like I have for the last 16 years, there is always something bound to happen that whatever planning can’t handle.

If you're a new leader or first-time manager, it's important you go through these steps carefully.  

So what do you do when you get into a disaster from work? 

Let me share with you some tricks I’ve learned albeit the hard way but truly golden.

Keep calm

Believe me, even the best managers I’ve worked with and leaders I worked for in the past had opportunities in keeping calm

But, truly, this is the 1st step to recover from a disaster from work.

Take deep breaths, meditate, take a walk or workout.

Do what will give you a clear mind because you will need this as you device a way to get through this dilemma.

I suggest deferring any communication with anyone because it may cloud your mind.

Sometimes, it’s best to take your time and reflect before diving in.

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Retrace your steps

Think through what has led into this situation and be honest to yourself on what truly happened.

Be more critical on meetings, interactions, communication or email that has brought you in this fire-fighting situation.

Remember what were the steps that were controllable and uncontrollable.

Be mindful on your determination of uncontrollable factors.

Sometimes, what seems to be uncontrollable can actually be controllable if you keep digging and asking yourself if it  was something you could have prevented.

The goal is to reflect through details that happened. Use the 5 why’s method in determining root cause.

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Use the STAR Method when Communicating

After your reflection, then it’s time to communicate.

Organize your thoughts and use the STAR method as you talk to your boss. Know that you only get 1 shot when trying to recover from a disaster.

The way you explain the details will need to sound coherent and well thought out.

Don’t wing it. Prepare and practice what you’re going to say.

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The STAR method drives the point across and it truly streamlines your thought process.

Here’s how to go about it. 

S - Situation

Describe the situation. This is the part where you provide the background and key components that lead you into this situation.

Carefully craft the situation that will set the tone for the next step.

T - Task     

Tell your boss how you fit in the situation that you just described. Be keen on how the circumstance and your role fit into the task. 

Be clear on where you are in the whole scenario.

This will provide perspective and will help you move on to the next step

A - Action  

This is the part where you outline the actions you took. This is the most crucial part of the whole STAR Method because this is where you can outline what you did or didn’t do.

Inaction is just as important to be discussed as actions taken.

If you laid out the situation and task well, going through the actions will be breeze.

But if not, then get ready to justify your actions as you describe them.

R - Result

This is the effect of the Situation, Task and Actions you outlined.

The result either justifies the actions or not. And this is the actual disaster you are in right now.

So do not dwell on this too much. It’s best to say it as it is and then move on.

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Create steps to fix the mess

After you have outlined the STAR, it’s time to take ownership and take action.

I suggest to pick the 3 most impactful actions that can definitely help fix the disaster you are in.

These actions should be the ones that will immediately improve the situation or problem.

Note that as you outline the actions, you will need your team or departments to help you get through a disaster.

Keep calm and practice quick thinking. Have a sense of urgency to not only come up with actions but also EXECUTE them.

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As a manager, you are expected not only to plan but to execute, follow through and put the issue to rest.

This is part of getting out of the disaster and will not go unnoticed.

As a leader, you are constantly observed by your boss, colleagues and team.

It is during this time that you should exhibit resilience, sense of urgency and positivity as you fix the mess.


All managers, regardless of tenure and background go through disasters at work every now and then. This is bound to happen so it’s important that you have clear steps on how to deal with the issue and resolve. In these situations, make sure to remain calm. Retrace your steps and reflect on what happened. When you communicate, use the STAR methodology so you can speak about the issue intelligently. And finally, make sure to create mitigating plans, execute them and ensure it’s resolved. These steps can get you through disasters at work and will get you back on track.

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About Daisy Casio

Daisy is the creator of ChampLeaders. She has a husband, a toddler and a love for learning something new. She writes about Leadership, motivation and many more. Daisy hopes to share her mantra on being positive and living your best self in the now.

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