Crisis Management and Team Effectiveness: A Closer Examination
Crisis Management 1
Running head: Crisis Management
Crisis Management & Team Effectiveness: A Closer Examination
Granville King, III
Indiana University Southeast
4201 Grant Line Road
New Albany, IN. 47150
Electronic Mail: email@example.com
Manuscript submitted to the Midwest Academy of Management 45th Annual Meeting as
an original paper in the Social Issues & Environmental Management Track.
Granville King, III (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1994) is an Associate Professor of
Organizational Communication at Indiana University Southeast. His primary research
interest includes peer reporting, whistle-blowing, and crisis management. His work may
be found in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Applied
Communication Research, Journal of Business Ethics, and the Journal of Business
Crisis Management 2
Being able to effectively respond in the event a crisis is relevant to an
organization’s survival. Whether or not an organization is prepared for a potential crisis
depends upon senior officials and other personnel operating within the company.
Corporations with established crisis management teams are able to communicate and
effectively respond in the event of a crisis. The purpose of this paper is to suggest
effective crisis management depends upon several team-related factors that may influence
an organization’s response. First, the term crisis is defined, followed by an overview of
the differences between crisis communication and crisis management. Second, a review
of relevant literature regarding teams and effectiveness is examined. Third, several
propositions regarding team effectiveness and crisis management are provided. Finally,
suggestions for research and practice are included for review.
Key Words: crisis, decision-making, effective, management, team
Crisis Management 3
Crisis Management & Team Effectiveness: A Closer Examination
Effective crisis management has become significant for organizations operating
today. Hardly a week passes when we do not read or hear about an organization being
faced with a crisis. A corporation may encounter a number of crises, for example,
contamination, fire, leaks, layoffs, takeovers, rumors, mergers, and downsizing just to
name a few (Pauchant & Mitroff, 1992). According to the Institute for Crisis
Management, a recent list of crisis-prone industries included medical/surgical
manufacturers, software manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers,
telecommunication companies, computer manufacturers, commercial banks, solid waste
disposal companies, security and commodity brokers, life insurance companies, and the
In the event of a crisis, an organization must have formal guidelines and
procedures for communicating to employees, as well as the general public. Scholars have
noted the importance of an organizational crisis management plan. For example, Fearn-
Banks (1996) in her seminal work on crisis communication, stresses the importance of
corporations developing and implementing effective crisis management and
communication plans. Citing corporate cases, Fearn-Banks outlines to the reader how
various organizations where either proactive or reactive in the event of a crisis. Along
those same lines, Coombs (1999) text’s also reinforces the significance of crisis planning
by focusing upon important issues, such as detection, prevention, preparation,
recognition, containment, and recovery. Finally, Barton (2001) suggests today’s
organizational leaders must be able to recognize, anticipate, manage, and formally
prepare for a crisis.
Organizations that prepare for a crisis often employ the use of teams in
developing a crisis management plan (Dorn, 2000). According to Coombs (1999), “a
crisis management team is a cross-functional group of people within the organization
who have been designated to handle any crisis” (p. 63). A crisis management team may
consist of individuals from senior administration, technical operations, public affairs,
public relations, consumer affairs, investor relations, and advertising. In other words, the
crisis management team should involve personnel from all departments within the
organization. This process allows the organization to effectively respond to a myriad of
audiences when faced with a corporate crisis (Barton, 1993).
Other researchers have also advocated the use of teams in responding to an
organizational crisis. For example, Pearson and Clair (1998) note that organizations will
experience greater success when crisis preparation and response rests with a crisis
management team than with an individual. In a similar vein, Fink (1986) states “one of
the first task of the central core is to draw up a list of names to be added to the crisis
management team…this is done so that, when the crisis hits, no one has to sit around and
wonder who ought to be called in” (p. 57). Finally, Pearson, Misra, Clair, and Mitroff
(1997) note during a crisis, creating and institutionalizing a positive mind-set begins with
an effective crisis management team.
Employees who are members of a crisis management team must possess effective
communication and management skills. These skills allow team members the
opportunity to facilitate and exchange ideas among the organization’s diverse
departments, monitor key assumptions that may influence the belief system of the crisis
plan, obtain employee opinions on potential crisis and crisis management, and encourage
Crisis Management 4
novel experiments that could benefit the organization in preparing for a crisis (Pauchant
& Mitroff, 1992). Also, Ray (1999) notes crisis management teams should be cohesive
and possess high levels of communication, trust, involvement, commitment, and
delegation. Finally, Coombs (1999) states a crisis management team should possess
excellent decision-making skills between group members, and other employees within
the organization. All of these skills perform important roles in organizing and designing
the plan, selecting and assigning members to crisis units, and training group and
organizational members on the crisis plan (Littlejohn, 1983).
Currently, an investigation into issues that may influence the effectiveness of a
crisis management team is limited. Scholars have suggested issues involving
interpersonal conflict (Coombs, 1999), sub-optimal teams (Pearson, Misra, Clair, &
Mitroff, 1997), and ineffective decision-making (Hart, Rosenthal, & Kouzmin, 1993;
Pearson & Clair, 1998) may influence members’ efficiency and effectiveness. However,
other management and communication issues may also affect a crisis team.
Researchers in management and communication have suggested that a team’s
composition (Gruenfeld, Mannix Williams, & Neale, 1996), knowledge level (Devine,
1999), individual attitudes (Pilkington & Lydon, 1997), and member diversity (Knouse &
Dansby, 1999) may influence its effectiveness. We can assume these same factors might
also perform a significant role within a crisis management team, and influence its overall
effectiveness. In order to gain a better understanding of crisis management teams,
research needs to explore these issues and other team-related factors.
The purpose of this paper is to examine various factors that may influence the
effectiveness of a crisis management team. Practitioners may find the information
presented as useful in enhancing their understanding of crisis management and team
behavior. From an academic perspective, scholars and students of crisis management
may find the information as a starting point in advancing the literature on team
effectiveness within crisis management.
This article has been organized into four parts: First, the term crisis is defined,
followed by an overview of the differences between crisis communication and crisis
management. Next, a review of relevant literature regarding teams and effectiveness is
explored, followed by several propositions related to crisis management teams. Finally,
suggestions for future research and practice are provided for review.
Scholars have struggled to find an acceptable definition of a crisis. For example,
Fearn-Banks (1996) defines a crisis as “a major occurrence with a potentially negative
outcome affecting an organization, company, or industry, as well as its publics, products,
services, or good name” (p. 1). Hamblin (1958) argues a crisis is “ . . . an urgent situation
in which all group members face a common threat” (p. 322). Pauchant and Mitroff
(1992) perceive a crisis as “a disruption that physically affects a system as a whole and
threatens its basic assumptions, its subjective sense of self, its existential core” (p. 12).
Fink (1986) claims a crisis is any event that may escalate in intensity; fall under close
media and government scrutiny, interferes with normal business operations, and affects
the image and bottom line of a company. Barton (1993) notes a crisis “is a major,
unpredictable event that has potentially negative results. The event and its aftermath may
significantly damage an organization and its employees, products, services, financial
condition, and reputation” (p. 2). Lerbinger (1997) perceives a crisis as “an event that
Crisis Management 5
brings, or has the potential for bringing, an organization into disrepute and imperils its
future profitability, growth, and possibly its very survival” (p. 4). Ray (1999) tends to
view a crisis as an event triggered by organizational fallacies. Finally, Pearson and Clair
(1998) view a crisis as “a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability
of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of
resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly” (p. 60).
Surveying the above definitions, certain commonalities appear to be prevalent.
First, a crisis is an unplanned event that has the potential of dismantling the internal and
external structure of an organization. A crisis may affect not only the employees and
other members internal to the organization, but also key publics and stakeholders external
to the organization.
Second, a crisis may occur in any organization. For example, nonprofit
organizations, governmental agencies, houses of worship, utilities, cooperatives,
multinational organizations, and so forth are all susceptible to crisis (Barton, 1993).
Finally, a crisis may affect the legitimacy of an organization. In the event of a
crisis, the media’s influence on public perception may affect the livelihood of an
organization. The media can influence public perception in regards to issues involving
cause, blame, response, resolution, and consequences. Presented in a negative light, the
legitimacy of an organization may be threatened (Ray, 1999).
Once an organization is viewed in a negative light, the reputation and the overall
survival of the company may be at risk. Senior officials within the corporation will often
attempt to communicate with the media, the general public, and key stakeholders in order
to appear as having controlled or contained the crisis. Communication presents various
challenges in the containment phase of a crisis. For example, not only are key
stakeholders informed, progress reports must be the provided, and any actions taken by
the crisis team must be reported (Coombs, 1999). In short, what is communicated and by
whom within the organization performs a pivotal role. In order to gain a better
understanding of crisis communication and how it differs from crisis management, these
terms will be explored next.
Differentiating Crisis Communication from Crisis Management
Being able to effectively communicate with key publics is central to an
organization in the event of a crisis. As mentioned earlier, what is to be communicated
and by whom within the organization is a significant factor for members of a crisis
management team. In order to get a full understanding of the role of crisis
communication, one must first understand the differences between crisis communication
and crisis management.
Crisis communication is “the communication between the organization and its
publics prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence” (Fearn-Banks, 1996, p. 2).
During the communication phase, the organization must appear to be in control (at least
in its appearance) to members external to the corporation (Heath, 1994). Such behavior
will direct stakeholders’ physical and psychological responses, as well as impressions
about the organization (Ray, 1999).
Organizations use various strategies in communicating during a crisis. For
example, an organization might deny responsibility, hedge responsibility (distance or
duck responsibility), make amends, elicit sympathy, or use some form of ingratiation
tactics in order to win stakeholders support (Ray, 1999). On the other hand, the
Crisis Management 6
organization might attack the accuser. In this case, the crisis manager would confront the
person or group who claims that a crisis exists (Coombs, 1999). Other strategic chooses
an organization might use are justification – “organization tries to minimize the perceived
damage associated with the crisis” (Coombs, p. 123), and corrective action – “the
organization seeks to repair the damage from the crisis or take steps to prevent the repeat
of the crisis” (Coombs, p. 123).
Crisis management differs from crisis communication. Crisis management is a
“systematic attempt by organizational members with external stakeholders to avert crises
or to effectively manage those that do occur” (Pearson & Clair, 1998, p. 61). In this case,
the organization and members of the crisis management team will attempt to remove
some of the risk and uncertainty that would not allow the organization to be in control of
its own destiny (Fearn-Banks, 1996). Efforts to control a crisis might center upon
whistle-blowers, vandalism, terrorism, indictments, extortion, crashes, and so on.
The organization, along with members of the crisis management team, must
decide what issues need to be addressed within a crisis plan. Construction of the crisis
management plan may be difficult due to factors associated with team members.
Relevant issues such as members’ knowledge, attitudes, leadership, and motivation may
affect the construction and implementation of plan. In the next section, we will review
significant factors that may influence the effectiveness of a crisis team.
Crisis Management & Team Effectiveness
The use of teams within organizations has become standard practice among
leading corporations today (Devine, Clayton, Philips, Dunford, & Melner, 1999).
Companies have found several advantages of using teams, for example, a team generates
more information, stimulates creativity, and encourages agreement with important
decisions (Beebe & Masterson, 2000). On the other hand, there are also disadvantages to
using teams within a corporation, for example, working in teams cost time, energy and
resources, conflict can occur, pressures to conform (groupthink) (Mullen, Anthony, Salas,
& Driskell, 1994), member domination, and a lack of individual responsibility (Beebe &
Masterson, 2000; Engleberg & Wynn, 2000).
Although teams and groups are perceived as synonymous terms, researchers have
indicated they are not the same. For example, according to Barker, Wahlers, and Watson
(2001), a group is “merely a collection of individuals” (p. 6-7). A group may reside
within an organization, a club, a family, or among friends. On the other hand, a team has
been defined as “a coordinated group of individuals organized to work together to
achieve a specific common goal” (Beebe & Masterson, 2000, p. 6). Likewise, other
researchers claim a team to be composed of a group of people “given full responsibility
and resources for their performance” (Engleberg & Wynn, 2000, p. 13). Finally,
Lumsden and Lumsden (2000) perceive a team as consisting of a group of people that
“develop special feelings among its members, creates critical work processes, and reflects
leadership for its own development and performance” (p. 12).
Surveying these definitions, certain characteristics appear to be prevalent among
teams. First, a team is a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, abilities,
and knowledge levels to accomplish a specific task. Second, members of a team work to
achieve agreed upon goals. This task is accomplished by team members communicating
and arriving at a consensus on how to achieve the desired goal. Finally, team members
create a self-identity or self-image that becomes a cohesive and motivating force for its
Crisis Management 7
members (Lumsden & Lumsden, 2000). In other words, some team members are able to
motivate other group members based upon their actions, attitudes, and behaviors.
Crisis management members may function as a team within an organization. In
order to cope successfully with a crisis, team members must work hard and skillfully use
relevant information and procedures at their disposal. Team members must feel and act
as members of an effective team (Tjovsold, 1995).
Scholars have suggested various individual and team-related factors may enhance
the efficiency and effectiveness of a team (Hirokawa & Keyton, 1995; Klimoski & Jones,
1995). For example, “an individual’s capacity to perform effectively on a team will be
related to such things as the pattern of his or her specific aptitudes, general abilities
(especially verbal intelligence), and individual and task-specific team abilities” (Klimoski
& Jones, p. 302). Whether or not a team is effective will also depend upon the team’s
organization (that is, the division of labor and authority among group members), norms
(that is, formal and informal rules of conduct that groups develop to regulate their
members’ behavior), composition (that is, group characteristics such as task related
abilities, values, and needs of team members, and individual difference variables related
to age, gender, race), leadership (that is, method of influencing team outcomes through
direct and indirect interpersonal means), and size (that is, the number of members to
actively participate on a task) (Klimoski & Jones).
Evidence indicates clearly that not all teams are effective (Hirokawa & Keyton,
1995). Placing people in a group and asking them to perform a task does not mean they
will effectively perform the specific task. Various factors can influence the efficiency
and effectiveness of a team, for example, insufficient time, information resources,
procedural conflict, poor group leadership, uninterested and unmotivated members, no
organizational assistance, no financial compensation, and changing organizational
expectations (Hirokawa & Keyton). Other factors may also influence a team’s
effectiveness, for example, prior interactions, team composition, task knowledge,
leadership ability, and the organization’s culture (see Figure I).
Insert Figure I Here
Prior interactions, or group familiarity, may influence the effectiveness of a crisis
management team. Researches have suggested team members familiar with one
another’s skills, perspectives, and interpersonal styles might display a freer, more open
format of communication among group members (Wittenbaum & Stasser, 1996). From a
crisis management perspective, this freer, open-style of communication might enhance
the overall effectiveness of a crisis team. Researchers found:
Familiar group members were more comfortable
disagreeing with one another than groups whose members
were unacquainted and were, therefore, forming first
impressions during the task. The greater the number of
familiar members in a group, the more comfortable they
were expressing disagreement, the more open they were to
learning from one other, the more they enjoyed working
together, and the greater their satisfaction with outcomes.
(Gruenfeld, Mannix, Williams, & Neale, 1996, p. 11)
Crisis Management 8
In a similar study, Goodman and Leyden (1991) found job and employee familiarity
influenced productivity levels among a group of coal-mining workers. Finally, Liang,
Moreland, and Argote (1995) suggest group members who spend time with one another
share more experiences than unfamiliar group members. This sharing of experience may
result in familiar group members being able to resolve problems, which may plague
unfamiliar group members (Liang, et al.). Therefore, from a crisis management
perspective, one can assume:
Proposition One: Crisis management teams (CMT)
composed of members with prior interactions may be more
likely to generate and share ideas with one another than
CMT whose members know less about one another.
A second factor that may plague crisis management teams is homogeneity.
Homogeneity refers to the extent to which group members are similar in values,
psychological make-up, communication style, race, gender, attitudes, beliefs, abilities,
skills, decision-making, and task relevant information (Salazar, 1996, 1997).
Heterogeneity, on the other hand, refers to the extent to which diversity among group
members involving issues such as personality, values, attitudes, abilities, skills, race,
gender, decision-making, communication style, and beliefs are held as important factors
in reference to team composition.
Research has suggested that homogeneous groups do not perform as well as
heterogeneous groups. According to Shaw (1976), “ . . . groups composed of members
having diverse, relevant abilities performed more effectively than groups composed of
members having similar abilities” (p. 235). The reason for this is because homogeneous
groups are typically less goal and task oriented, which leads to unrealistic and poor team
decision-making. On the other hand, heterogeneity promotes the opportunity for diverse
opinions and attitudes, freedom of expression, and better decision-making by team
members (Gouran & Fisher, 1984).
Various studies have found heterogeneous groups do out-perform homogeneous
groups. For example, according to Gruenfeld, Mannix, Williams, and Neale (1996),
heterogeneity increased the probability that members will question each other’s
judgments when information diversity is low. Hoffman (1979) suggests heterogeneous
groups are more likely than homogeneous groups to be creative and reach quality
decisions. Finally, researchers have indicated personal attributes (that is, diverse values
and opinions) of a heterogeneous group performed a significant role during team
decision-making (Hoffman & Maier, 1961; Maier & Hoffman, 1960). Therefore, from a
crisis management perspective, one can assume:
Proposition Two: Crisis management teams (CMT) whose
members are heterogeneous may be more likely to generate
better ideas than teams whose members are homogeneous.
Another component that may influence the effectiveness of a crisis management
team is knowledge of the task. We can assume that task knowledge would perform a
significant role in whether a crisis management team is effective. Team members, who
are aware of some of the key components of effective crisis management, may enhance
the team’s decision-making in the event of a crisis.
Researchers have found that prior knowledge and information held by group
members before a discussion, influenced decision-making effectiveness among group
Crisis Management 9
members. For example, Larson, Foster-Fisherman, and Keys (1994) found that
information shared by group members prior to a discussion encouraged the dialogue
between group members. According to Larson, et al., the exposure of information prior
to and during a discussion, may make it easier for group members to recall information as
well as verify the accuracy of information. In a similar study, Stasser, Taylor, and Hanna
(1989) found that information known beforehand would encourage the discussion and
dialogue among team members.
Other researchers have also taken into account the importance of prior knowledge
and team effectiveness. For example, according to Hmelo, Nagarajan, and Day (2000),
prior knowledge will influence the effectiveness of a team in solving a problem. In this
study, Hmelo, et al. examined the effects of high and low prior knowledge among a group
of medical students. This was done by using a computer-modeling tool for conducting
experiments in cancer biology. Results found that teams whose members were without
prior knowledge needed to learn as they went along. They were unsystematic in
planning, interpreting, comprehending, and understanding what they were doing. On the
other hand, members with prior knowledge had a greater understanding of the task. They
were more structured, knowledgeable, and goal-oriented than the team without prior
From a crisis management perspective, one can assume that teams with prior
knowledge may be more effective in making a decision-making than teams without prior
knowledge. Devine (1999) claims cognitive ability and task knowledge are important
when the task has a high degree of complexity and a high-level of decision-making
among team members. Thus, based upon this information, proposition three suggests:
Proposition Three: Crisis management teams (CMT)
whose members are knowledgeable of the task at hand may
be more likely to generate better ideas than members who
are not knowledgeable of the task.
A fourth factor that may influence the effectiveness of a crisis management team
is the style of leadership. Whether or not an organization is successful in handling a
crisis may depend upon the ability of the team’s leader to manage the diverse behaviors
of group members and the company’s employees. The crisis leader must possess and
demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, which will motivate team members and
employees to work towards the organization’s goals. Furthermore, the team leader must
be able to emotionally inspire self-confidence in all group members, along with
employees that the organization will return to a state of normalcy. Such a team leader
must possess a style of charisma that displays loyalty and confidence to the organization
and its members.
The term charisma comes from a Greek word-meaning gift (Gibson, Ivancevich,
& Donnelly, 2000). Sociologist Max Weber (1947) coined the term charismatic to refer
to individuals who were perceived as extraordinarily gifted, or possessing unique
qualities that followers may revere with unflinching dedication and awe (Bryman, 1992).
According to House (1976), a charismatic leader uses emotions, enthusiasm, and self-
confidence to inspire listeners to understand and take-on a specific point of view. House
…by the leader’s expression of self-confidence, and
through the exhibition of confidence in followers the leader
Crisis Management 10
is also assumed to inspire self-confidence in the followers.
Thus, the charismatic leader is asserted to clarify followers’
goals, cause them to set or accept higher goals, and have
greater confidence in their ability to contribute to the
attainment of such goals. (p. 191)
Other scholars have also noted characteristics of a charismatic leader. For
instance, Hackman and Johnson (1996) note that charismatic leaders are relationship
builders. That is, charismatic leaders are skilled at linking with others. “Terms such as
excitement, adventure, loyalty, and devotion are frequently used to describe charismatic
leader-follower relations” (Hackman & Johnson, p. 266)
Charismatic leaders are also visionaries. Charismatic leaders have the ability to
create symbolic visions. They look towards the future of the organization or group,
without losing track of clearly established norms and values. “The power of the
charismatic grows as larger and larger numbers of people accept his/her symbolic focus”
(Hackman & Johnson, 1996, p. 266). Stressful conditions involving an organizational
crisis, unemployment, or corporate take-over discredit the current definition of reality.
Such events allow for a more receptive audience for the charismatic leader’s new vision
(Hackman & Johnson).
Finally, charismatic leaders are masters at influencing and inspiring audiences. In
some cases, listeners do not question or rebut the charismatic leader’s decision or
directives. According to Hackman and Johnson (1996), the charismatic leader displays
an image of confidence, competence, and trustworthiness. “They utilize power of
positive expectations to generate high productivity and make effective use of language
and persuasion to achieve goals” (p. 266). Through their skillful use of rhetoric, the
charismatic leader is able to captivate listeners to work towards team and organizational
House (1976) continues this line of reasoning by noting factors such as
dominance, need for influence, and a strong conviction in the moral righteousness,
differentiate charismatic from non-charismatic leaders. Furthermore, charismatic leaders
engage in actions that are perceived as favorable, create an impression of competence and
success, articulate ideological goals, communicate high expectations and confidence in
all followers, and engage in behaviors that will arouse the interest to accomplish desired
goals (House; Hollander & Offermann, 1990; Northouse, 2001).
Organizational researches have successfully linked charismatic leadership with
crisis management. For example, Pillai (1996) found that under crisis situations,
charismatic leadership appeared to be more effective and prevalent than in non-crisis
conditions. In a similar study, House, Woycke, and Fodor (1988) (c.f., House, Spangler,
& Woycke, 1991) suggests that “charismatic leadership is required, or at least is more
appropriate, in situations that require a combination of highly involved and active
leadership plus emotional commitment and extraordinary effort by both leader and
followers in pursuit of ideological goals” (p. 117). Finally, Gibson, Ivancevich, and
Donnelly (2000) note under conditions of a crisis, charismatic leadership is likely to
emerge. In this situation, a leader is given the power to do what is necessary to solve the
crisis. Such tactics might include empowering followers, contacting outside agencies, or
directly eliminating the crisis. Based upon this information, proposition four states:
Crisis Management 11
Proposition Four: Crisis management teams (CMT) whose
leader demonstrates a charismatic style of leadership may
be more effective in controlling and eliminating an
Finally, a fifth factor that may influence the effectiveness of a crisis management
team is the organization’s culture. The culture of an organization performs a pivotal role
in the event of a crisis. Whether or not an organization returns to business as usual may
depend upon the organization’s culture.
Researchers have defined an organizational culture as “what the employees
perceive and how this perception creates a pattern of beliefs, values, and expectations”
(Gibson, Ivancevich, & Donnelly, 2000, p. 30). Along those same lines, Clampitt (2001)
defines a culture as “the underlying belief and value structure of an organization
collectively shared by the employees that is symbolically expressed in a variety of overt
and subtle ways” (p. 48). Finally, Schein (1985) perceives a culture as consisting of
assumptions and beliefs that are communicated and shared by members of an
In the event of a crisis, the values, beliefs, and assumptions held by members of a
corporation may affect the organization’s return to normal operation. Some organizations
perceive crisis management as futile and not a necessary requirement. This line of
thinking may be a result of the current senior officials operating within the organization,
or basic beliefs and assumptions that have been carried down from generation to
generation. Such faulty rationalizations may cost the organization a huge financial loss,
as well as place the organization’s future in jeopardy.
Ray (1999) suggests that crisis management begins with the organization’s
culture. “The presence of arrogance or lack of common sense in an organization’s
culture can lead to a crisis” (p. 37). For example, managers or senior officials who
believe their organization is omnipotent may find they are unprepared in the event of a
major crisis. This line of thinking penetrates the inner core of the organization and may
influence the effectiveness of a crisis management team
Researchers (Pauchant & Mitroff, 1992) have suggested that some organizations
fall victim to self-inflated cultures. That is, some employees within the organization take
on self-inflated behaviors described as “dramatic, authoritarian, and grandiose” (p. 68).
Individuals with self-inflated behaviors are often perceived as
…interpersonally exploitive, taking advantage of others,
developing a sense of entitlement or unreasonable
expectations from others; they have developed a grandiose
sense of self-importance, exaggerating their achievements
and talents, being preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited
success, power, or brilliance, and requiring constant
attention and admiration from others. They lack empathy,
often being unable to recognize or experience the feelings
of others, and they have no tolerance for the frustration of
delayed gratification. (p. 68)
In the event of a crisis, senior officials, managers, and other employees who suffer with
this line of thinking, often react very strongly to a crisis. Members of an organization
with self-inflated behaviors may display feelings of shame, rage, and humiliation during a
Crisis Management 12
crisis (Pauchant & Mitroff). In fact, the crisis management team might be viewed as
incompetent, negligent, and worthless. As such, the success and effectiveness of the
crisis team might be hampered.
Faulty rationalizations by individuals are not the only factor that may plague the
effectiveness of a crisis management team. Pauchant and Mitroff (1992) note numerous
cultural rationalizations may also influence a crisis management team. In their research,
Pauchant and Mitroff found thirty-one faulty cultural rationalizations that hinder crisis
management efforts. These faulty rationalizations may be divided into four broad
categories namely, properties of the organization, properties of the environment,
properties of crisis themselves, and properties of crisis management efforts (see Table I).
Insert Table I Here
Each of these faulty rationalizations may influence the effectiveness of a crisis
management team. When these rationalizations are clearly established, a crisis
management team may find limited support by the organization and its members.
Furthermore, decisions regarding effective crisis management planning might be perceive
as non-significant to the organization. Such beliefs, values, and assumptions within an
organization’s culture may hamper the performance of team members in the event of a
crisis. Therefore, one can assume:
Proposition Five: Crisis management teams (CMT) are
less likely to be effective if the culture of the organization
does not support crisis planning.
Suggestions for Future Research & Practice
The field of crisis management is beginning to attract researchers interest.
Currently, a large majority of the research on crisis management is presented in the form
of case studies, normative essays, and various theoretical pieces. Empirical research,
however, has yet to test many of the assumptions and propositions forwarded by scholars
in the field.
An empirical analysis would validate many of the assumptions and theories
presented by scholars. One method of empirically testing for crisis management is to
design and administer a mock crisis to an organization. Working directly with senior
officials and upper management, researchers would collect valuable information
regarding the effectiveness of the crisis team, the crisis plan, and controlling the crisis.
Furthermore, valuable information regarding what failed, why it failed, and what changes
are needed would be forwarded to the organization for review.
Other methods may also be used for validating many of the arguments and
propositions forwarded by researchers. For example, researchers might consider
administering hypothetical scenarios. This method would only provide information and
data on what a respondent thinks he or she would do in the event of a crisis. In an actual
crisis, the respondent’s actions may differ from what was reported. Other methods for
collecting empirical data might include surveys, questionnaires, or interviews.
Depending upon the research question or hypothesis under investigation, each of these
methods of data collection would be useful.
Finally, organizations must do their part in encouraging and practicing effective
crisis management. This process begins by addressing problems with the crisis plan,
Crisis Management 13
conducting mock crises, and educating all employees internal to the organization on
effective crisis management. Also, the external environment, including key publics and
company stakeholders, should be aware of the avenues the organization has undertaken in
the event of a crisis. Such a procedure allows the organization to be perceived in a
favorable light prior to a crisis.
In closing, the need for effective crisis management is clearly evident. This
begins within the organization and with the implementation of an effective crisis team.
The propositions forwarded suggest factors that may influence the effectiveness of a
crisis management team. Although none of the propositions have been empirically
tested, the rationale for each assumption has been clearly presented. Scholars interested
in testing these propositions might consider using one of the methods of data collection
presented earlier. I encourage them to do so.
Crisis Management 14
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Crisis Management 18
See Institute of Crisis Management: ICM Crisis Report – News Coverage of
1999 Business Events (August 2000) Vol. 8(1), pp. 2.
Prior Interactions →
Team Composition →
Crisis Management &
Leadership Ability →
Figure I – Factors Which May Influence Crisis Management & Team Effectiveness
Table I – Faulty Rationalization That May Influence Effective Crisis Management
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
Properties of the Properties of the Properties of the Properties of Prior
Organization Environment Crises Themselves Crisis Management Efforts
1. Our size will protect us. 11. If a major crisis happens, 17. Most crises turn out not 24. Crisis management is like an
2. Excellent, well-managed someone else will rescue us. to be very important. insurance policy; you only need
companies do not have 12. The environment is benign; 18. Each crisis is so unique so much.
crises. or, we can effectively buffer that it is impossible to 25. In a crisis situation, we just need
3. Our special location will ourselves from the environment. prepare for all crises. to refer to the emergency
protect us. 13. Nothing new has really occurred 19. Crises are isolated procedures we’ve laid out in our
4. Certain crises only happen that warrants change. incidents. crisis manuals.
to others. 14. Crisis management is someone 20. Most crises resolve 26. We are a team that will function
5. Crises do not require else’s responsibility. themselves; therefore well during a crisis.
special procedures. 15. It’s not a crisis if it doesn’t time is our best ally. 27. Only executives need to be aware
6. It is enough to react to a happen to or hurt us. 21. Most (if not all) crises of our crisis plans; why scare
crisis once it has 16. Accidents are just a cost of have a technical solution. employees or members of the
happened. doing business. 22. It’s enough to throw community?
7. Crisis management or technical and financial 28. We are tough enough to react
crisis prevention is a quick-fixes at a problem. to a crisis in an objective and
luxury. 23. Crises are solely negative rational manner.
8. Employees who bring bad in their impact. We 29. We know how to manipulate the
news deserve to be punished. cannot learn anything the media.
9. Our employees are so from them. 30. The most important thing in
dedicated that we trust them crisis management is to protect
without question. the good image of the company.
10.Desirable business ends 31. The only important thing in
justify the taking of high- crisis management is to ensure
risk means. that our internal operations stay
From: Pauchant & Mitroff, p. 86