In Sweden, the operators at emergency dispatch centres are responsible for allocating resources (e.g. ambulances, fire brigade, police) in response to calls. We analysed situations that the emergency operators experienced as difficult and their reflections on how they managed them. Interviews were conducted with all 16 emergency operators at a centre that serves a population of 275,000 and receives about 700,000 emergency calls annually. A phenomenological-hermeneutic approach was used for the analysis. Situations that operators experienced as difficult were characterized by uncertainty, communication difficulties and insufficient resources. Skills, knowledge and experience were regarded as important in the management of these situations, as were personal qualities such as sensitivity, insight, empathy and intuition. The emergency operators stated that they needed more guidance, feedback and education in their work. This would lead to an increased sense of certainty, which would lead to decreased stress and a better outcome for those in need.