English for office emergencies: How to deal with 5 different office disasters

What is an office emergency? This is different for everyone. For some of us, it may be as an angry client, other times it might be that we need to work late for a tight deadline. It might even be something much more serious like a natural disaster. Let’s take a look at some of the key emergencies you are likely to encounter at work and the kind of language we use to deal with each of them.

I don’t think I can meet this deadline!

A tight deadline can be a good challenge but what about when it seems impossible to meet? Stay calm, you still have a few options. You could work overtime (stay late after work) or even pull an all-nighter (work all night). Another option might be to extend the deadline. Use polite phrases like “Would it be possible to extend the deadline?” to ask and remember to give a reason why. If it’s impossible to extend the deadline and you have to work late, give your team a pep talk (speech to encourage them) and use positive language to keep everyone motivated.

Things haven’t worked out as expected!

It’s always important to have a plan but even the best plans don’t always work out as we would expect. When your plans go wrong, take a step back and reevaluate the situation. Work out why they went wrong by asking yourself “Why did this go differently to what I had planned?” then ask yourself “What do I need to do to get from this situation to the outcome I want?”. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it to get to the outcome you want in the future.

My client is really angry!

We all want to keep our clients happy but in order to do that, we need to fully understand the problems they are having. Put yourself in the client’s situation and think how you would feel if you were them. If you don’t understand why they are angry, ask them to explain the situation to you in detail so you can help. Once you do understand, empathise with the client by saying “I understand why you are angry” then explain a solution or what you are going to do to help solve the problem.

My boss is angry!

There are few things as difficult as an angry client but having an angry boss is one of them. Again, try to understand why your boss is angry. If the problem is your fault, acknowledge it and explain what you will do to solve it or change the situation. Don’t pass the buck – take responsibility for you have done then take action to fix it. If the problem is due to something beyond your control, explain the situation honestly then suggest a way to make it right or ask your boss what he or she wants you to do to fix the problem.

There’s a natural disaster!

Make sure you have a clear evacuation plan and that all the emergency exits are well-marked. Have evacuation drills (practice evacuations) on a regular basis and ensure you comply with all the health and safety guidelines required in your country. Once you’ve done this, you can say you’re well-prepared for an emergency.

In the event of an emergency use imperatives (sentences without subjects like “Leave the building now”) and speak in a loud, clear voice. Don’t shout, though. Shouting will make people panic, which won’t help the situation. This is one of the occasions when you don’t need to say “Please”. In an emergency, it’s more important to be clear than polite.

So, now you know what to do and how to speak in each of these emergencies. Whatever kind of emergency occurs, the most important thing is to be prepared. To practise dealing with these situations, imagine yourself in each one and ask yourself what you would say and do. Use the expressions in this article as a starting point then make a note three more things you might say so you will always be prepared for an emergency.