Distributed FAQ: How Does Crisis Management Work in a Remote Context?

In Distributed FAQ, Matt Mullenweg addresses some of the most common issues companies, executives, and individuals face as they consider transitioning to a distributed model.


Q. How do you tackle crises and tough situations in a remote setting, when it’s impossible to gather all the relevant parties in one room?

A. The number-one priority is communication. Communicating often and transparently is key. At Automattic, we have a company-wide Slack #announcements channel that will link to a P2 blog post for additional context. We advocate for a framework of radical candor. 

We’re a distributed company, but we deal with the same challenges as other companies, including security breaches, hacks, downtime, fraud, and employee issues. I believe that conversations that happen in written form can be very helpful — they’re archived, so we can refer back to them, and they facilitate learning. One person can share a written summary with their interlocutor so they come to a shared understanding.

While working distributed, you can de-escalate yourself easily. You can take a break. A micro-habit you may want to introduce is to take a mindful minute and breathe.

And one final guideline we’ve adopted over the years, after seeing it defuse tough, challenging moments: assume positive intent (lovingly dubbed API) in all communications. Take the extra moment to consider how you might have misinterpreted a colleague’s words, or how they may have misread yours.


For more on communication and chaos, listen to Matt’s conversation with Automattic’s Sonal Gupta.

Welcome to the Chaos

“Welcome to the Chaos.”

These are the words every new hire at Automattic sees on their first day, emblazoned across the company’s online handbook. They are designed not to instill fear, but to prepare the newly-minted Automattician for life in a fast-moving, globally-distributed company. Working at Automattic sometimes feels like chaos, but over 950 employees wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sonal Gupta is one of them. She describes the moment she first read those words. They gave her immediate comfort because they confirmed that yes, working in this environment can feel overwhelming, but she wasn’t alone. 

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