Interpersonal Edge: Dealing with denial about crisis

Dr. Daneen Skube

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency

Q: My job is crisis management within my company. I’m sick of people denying problems, getting run over by problems, and expecting my department to come in and wave a magic wand. I clearly point out the problems, but no one believes me until things fall apart. How do I cope when denial is such a popular workplace pastime?

A: You can cope if you realize you did not sign up to be the emergency medic for your company. Crisis management does not mean everyone else’s denial should always be your problem. Part of your solution will be speak quietly and as balls drop let painful consequences educate your co-workers.

In Greek mythology there was a famous daughter of a king and queen who had been “gifted” by the gods with the ability to foretell the future. She tried to warn people about problems that always came to pass. No one believed her and she ended up getting murdered due to all the anxiety she caused with her accurate warnings.

Mythology and folklore contain much wisdom about how we should conduct ourselves in life. The story of Cassandra is a wise warning that simply seeing and stating problems will not guarantee that you’ll receive appreciation or reward.

Many of my clients are brilliant and proactive. All my clients eventually learn the art of seeing the future. They ask questions that allow others to see problems, and they wait until evidence of the problem is in view before acting.

If you boldly state like Cassandra, “Hey folks you’ll lose this war,” you’ll be in trouble. If you ask insightful questions that get others to see the poor odds of winning the same war, you’ll achieve influence.

Many adults are profoundly stubborn when it comes to making the same mistake over and over without much learning. If you try to intercede to prevent others from suffering then the pain never becomes strong enough for any break through to occur.

You may find it hard to sit on your hands when you see storm clouds on the horizon. Even when your job is crisis management you need the support and awareness of your co-workers to get your team to act. If you continue to try to be a one-person emergency response hero, you end up both fed up and burnt out.

It takes a village to fix a crisis and that village has got to move out of denial and into acknowledgment of the problems its faces. Then, the villagers will be better motivated to fix them. Use more patience and more strategy and you’ll discover both you and your team will benefit.

The last word(s)

Q: On some days I just want to quit. I understand the movement they call the “Great Resignation,” but I cannot afford to stop work yet. Is there a way to keep showing up when I just want out of the rat race?

A: Yes, keep your eye on the long-term goal (your financial peace of mind) and remember you are indeed not a rat. Look for the small pleasures in your daily grind and make your remaining time at work valuable.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). Contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. No personal replies.