Restoration After a Crisis Event

IRI Podcast Episode on Restorative Practices After a Crisis Event

When a disruptive event occurs in a workplace – be it a natural disaster, a labor strike, or a pandemic – whenever it ends, life goes on, work goes on, but those events do not occur without negatively impacting your workforce in some way. It’s only through acknowledgement of the crisis, and processing its effects that we can envision an eventual “return to normal” and truly begin to rebuild relationships. Today's guests are Carol Hutchins, a Labor, Communications and Organizational Development Consultant with IRI Consultants, and Sam Hutchins, who is an Organizational Development Consultant, also with IRI. Here, they explain:

  • What restorative practices are, and why they are so critical after a crisis ;
  • The dangers of moving forward after a crisis event without restoration;
  • What to expect from the restorative process; and
  • How third-party facilitators can assist in the initiation of this process!

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  • Restoration is a process to promote good health amongst employees with the intent of reinvestment into the organization, creating a renewal to the organization.
    • This includes mental health, wellbeing, and engagement, and the overall health of an employee translates to the health of the business.
  • Mr. Hutchins references the Japanese art of kintsugi, where people take broken pottery and put it back together with gold, as an analogy for restoration after a crisis event. He calls it labor-intensive, delicate, and artful.
    • It is important to take action soon after a crisis, to put the pieces back together as soon as possible.
    • Actions after a crisis are not always perfect, but addressing the crisis, and the sense of isolation that comes with crisis, is important to restorative practices which require some sense of guidance. 


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The Decline of Social Connections

  • Over the last two or three decades, people’s social relationships have shrunk by roughly 30%.
    • Social media and the pandemic have become isolating factors which have had a social impact on the workplace, and there is a general lack of social relationships.
    • The average person spends 2 hours on social media at work, therefore, people are looking for connection but not finding it in a meaningful way.
    • Using COVID as an example, there have been high rates of turnover in the workplace, particularly in leadership, which creates the sense of instability. 
  • Other events such as an election, labor events, strikes, are triggering events in the workplace because it also brings the stability of relationships into question.
  • This shrinking of social relationships, alongside the instability from the pandemic and other triggering events in the workplace highlight the critical need for restorative practices in the workplace. 

What’s At Stake

  • Crisis events in a workplace, such as a labor election or strike, can create fractured relationships and trust issues. 
  • Without initiating restorative practices after a crisis event, there can be a sense of worthlessness and loneliness which is not only negative for employee morale, but also overall morale across the company.
  • A crisis event can have a serious impact on the way that people work and their relationships with one another, their relationship with the company and with senior leadership.
  • Restorative practices after a crisis event allow companies to engage with their workforce, address these issues and provide the opportunity to build back what was lost in the midst of the crisis. 
    • These practices also acknowledge that something happened, and create a fresh start through a shift in perspective and creating a new pathway to a restored relationship. 
    • Restorative practices can be transformative. Going through this process is subjective to each person’s experience, and while it may not need to be mandatory, it can be beneficial for people to go through the process across the board.

The Restorative Process

  • The restorative process starts by getting senior leadership involved to understand and support, and even engage in, the process.
    • It is important to look at the most impacted groups from the crisis, and bring them together in smaller groups to have the opportunity to share their stories and develop compassion, and look towards ways of healing and engagement.
    • The restorative process is complete in two different senses. In a formal definition, it is when intentional dialogue takes place, and informal processes begin to take shape. This includes peers at different levels supporting each other and engaging with each other, more meaningful dialogue between leaders and employees, and responsive management. These informal practices are a strong sense that the restorative process is nearing the end.
    • A crisis should be addressed upfront, and quickly so that the workplace issues are handled quickly. There are benefits of initiating the process of healing when it is addressable. 
    • While addressing problems does increase vulnerability, it can help with underlying issues that could have been held for a long time. 
  • It is important to have senior leadership involved in restorative practices after a crisis event because they may also be in need of the process and connection as much as other employees. 
    • However, this process is strengthened when it is a peer process, and people at similar levels talk through their issues so they do not feel pressured to talk through some of their issues and to create a sense of compassion. 
  • While management should be involved in this process, companies may wish to engage a third-party to initiate restorative practices after a crisis event, to maintain confidentiality and build trust in the process, trust that may not be immediately in place if the process is initiated by an internal crisis management team.

Leadership’s Role

  • It is important for leaders to be mindful of restorative practices after a crisis event and being able to address those problems upfront to prevent further damage. 
  • The following are signs leaders should look for, indicating a need to take proactive steps and initiate restorative practices after a crisis event: 
    • Any decreases in productivity, retention, morale, and motivation after a crisis event;
    • Any decline in employee health or trust;
    • Any increases in absenteeism, personal conflicts, or indifferencein the workplace.
  • Leaders also benefit personally from restorative practices! 33% of leaders who left their position in the past 5 years did so because of their mental health, and there are metrics that show the reality of meaningful engagement having a positive impact on mental health. 

IRI Consultants

  • IRI Consultants offers third-party consultant services, including restorative practices after a crisis event, helping both companies and their employees find solutions to organizational management, relationship-building, and engagement strategies.

Carol Hutchins Background

  • BS in Communication from Columbia College Chicago
  • Arbitration Certification from Hamline University
  • Mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution, Chicago
  • ADA Mediation at John Jay College (CUNY)
  • Divorce Mediation, Ann Arbor Mediation Center
  • Ms. Hutchins is the Founder and Owner of Communcation Solutions
  • She currently serves as Labor, Communications and Organizational Development Consultant for IRI Consultants

Sam Hutchins Background

  • MS (ABT) in Psychology from Lipscomb University
  • Masters of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University
  • BA in Psychology from Wartburg College
  • Mr. Hutchins has worked as a college Faculty Assistant, as a hospital Mental Health Associate, and as a university Residential Coordinator
  • He currently serves as an Organizational Development Consultant with IRI Consultants


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