Objective: Provide Festival Store Directors/HR Managers guidelines for handling difficult personal situations/crisis that associates bring to their attention. The purpose of these guidelines is to fulfill Festival values while not over burdening leaders emotionally. The of goal of these conversation guidelines is to direct the associate to other resources such as Chaplaincy or EAP while maintaining empathic engagement.

Problem: Often an associate will bring the SD or HR Manager a personal crisis that is not related to operations but possibly effecting the job performance of the presenting associate. Because the values of Festival encourage “listening generously” (B.B. 16) the SD and HR Managers will offer an extensive amount of time to hear out the associates’ personal crisis, draining emotional energy. Our culture also encourages associates to “have each other’s backs” (B.B. 18) and to “always remember that we’re a family” (B.B. 22). Though these ideals are important to the continued success of Festival. How are leaders to maintain a balance between honoring the associate in crisis and accomplishing daily performance standards? Both caring for associates in crisis and maintaining performance standards are culture priorities.

Solution: A method to guide the crisis conversation that will honor the associate in crisis while not overly entangling store leadership emotionally. The following conversational guide in intended to guide conversations with associates in crisis.

3 A’s of Triaging Crisis


It is important to first acknowledge the thoughts and feelings of an associate’s crisis.

Listening skills are called for in order to communicate genuine empathy.

Listening generously does not mean it is necessary to listen for long lengths of time, it is the depth of our listening that is important.

The difference between sympathy and empathy is determined by your response to a shared crisis. Empathy communicates that you are with the one in need, sympathy says I care but I am not able to connect with your emotion.

In order to relay concern without going too deeply into an employee’s crisis, it is helpful to use the following “pivot” statement: “This (circumstance) is very hard to for you to deal with. I am wondering how you are coping?”

This pivot statement acknowledges the pain and moves into step two: discovering anchors.


Anchors represent the support systems an associate has that help in times of crisis. The objective is to help the associate begin to process ways to navigate the crisis. During a crisis, emotions hinder one’s ability to be rational about next steps.

Ask: “What are the ways you have coped with crisis in the past? What is helpful?”

Attempt to talk through three support systems or resources that the associate is aware of. This is where leaders can suggest possible anchors by sharing about ways they have navigated personal crisis in the past. It is important not to tell the associate what to do, but merely share what has worked for you. The ideas that they will eventually decide on need to be their choices, otherwise follow through will be minimal.

Once three possible anchors have been discussed (or if it is not possible to come up with three) the leader can suggest either chaplaincy or EAP as additional anchors.

Hopefully leadership has a relationship with the store chaplain and is able to say, “I have gotten to know our store chaplain and I feel they would be a safe, confidential anchor for you right now.”

This leads into the third ‘A’ in triaging crisis, assigning tasks.


The leader can now “pivot” the conversation to action steps by gently stating, “based on our conversation what do you feel would be the best thing to to do next?”

Once the associate has mentioned their next best step in solving their crisis, the leader can state what they are willing to do, such as, “I am willing to contact the chaplain and have them reach out to you if you want.”

To conclude the conversation, it is helpful to make a short summary of what you have heard and then commit to following up with the associate in the near future to see how they are coping.