Sometimes, life just drops crises right into your lap. Big or small, we all experience times of intense difficulty or trouble throughout our lives. Recently, I experienced a conundrum.

I ripped my pants at work.

I was sitting quietly at my desk, plugging away on a project, when I looked down and noticed I had a Grand Canyon-sized tear in my pants. It was my second week as an intern, and my wardrobe had malfunctioned. I panicked; it was a full-blown crisis.

I tried to figure out how disaster had struck. My pants weren’t ripped when I put them on, and I didn’t at any point hear or feel them tear. This crisis had crept up on me so stealthily that I discovered it by chance.

Then I tried to develop a way to handle the issue on my own. Like many organizations and individuals, my first thought was to pretend it hadn’t happened. O.K., no problem, I just won’t get out of my chair for the rest of the day and no one will notice. (Panicked thoughts are rarely brilliant.)

Hiding the crisis wasn’t working. Neither was pretending it wasn’t happening. I realized that I needed help. Eventually I summed up the courage to confide in my colleagues. They burst into laughter.

“How did you even do that?” I had no answer. After some good-natured teasing, a coworker said, “Just go buy a new pair of pants.”

Duh. I hustled off to the nearest Gap and bought myself a pair of off-white khakis. With the crisis over, I sauntered back into the office before the end of my lunch break and calmly finished the day.

My sartorial mishap was a rather trivial crisis. But, this episode did teach me a few simple lessons about crises and how to deal with them:

  1. It’s normal to panic, but the sooner you calm down the quicker you will be to find a solution.
  2. Ask for help! Most organizations don’t handle crises on a regular basis. It’s critical to have outside counsel during trying times—especially those with experience in handling a crisis.
  3. Rushing to solve one problem can lead to a far worse issue later. It’s critical to get as much information as you can, and discuss a plan of action with everyone on your team.
  4. A solution should not simply solve the crisis; it should inform your organization’s strategy so you’re better equipped to handle a similar issue in the future.
  5. Never, ever jump a fence in business casual. (I later figured out hopping the fence between a bus stop and train stop in my haste to get to work on time had likely split the seam on my pants.)

Read more posts about crisis communication.