LeaderLetter Special Issue

In This Issue

About The Special Issue
        In preparation for the November 5 meeting of the Miami Valley Forum on Wartime Business and Economics, my colleague, Dr. Jeanette Davy, prepared a fantastic handout on the grief process and post traumatic stress.  Dr. Davy is an expert and leading researcher in the field of employee stress.  With her permission, I’m including the text of her handout as a special issue of the LeaderLetter.  I’m sure you’ll find it as informative and helpful as I have.

What Happens After the Trauma?

        How are you and your employees reacting since September 11?  Below, we outline two natural responses.  Some people are moving through both simultaneously while others are may be more involved in one or the other.  These two responses are the Grief Process and Post Traumatic Stress.  They are not independent of each other, but we can make more sense of them if we look at them separately.

Grief Process
        The grief process has been looked at extensively.  The earliest work was done by Elisabeth Kublar-Ross reported in her most famous book, On Death and Dying.  The grief process was first defined by following people's reactions to the loss of a loved one and observing people faced with terminal illness.  Since then, we have found that the grief process can be triggered by almost any type of significant loss.
        On September 11 we lost lives but most of all, we lost our sense of security or safeness.  We suddenly were faced with the stark reality of just how vulnerable we are as a nation and as individuals.  We lost our sense of power to protect our loved ones and control our destiny.  These things are at the very core of who we are as a nation.  As a result, each of us is moving through the grief process.  There are 5 stages to this process:

  1. Denial - this can't be happening.
  2. Anger - why did this have to happen?
  3. Bargaining - I promise I'll never ask for another thing if only you will …
  4. Depression - a gloom that comes from having to adjust to so much so quickly.
  5. Acceptance
        Each of us moves toward acceptance at our own pace.  Unfortunately that progress isn't a straight line.  We often move back and forth between denial and depression for some time.  While most of us by this time are well past denial, there may still be brief moments when we act as if or try to pretend September 11 never happened.  It allows us at least a brief moment of normalcy.  Many of us are still angry, angry at those who did this and possibly angry at those we see as being too lax and allowing this to happen.  That anger will reemerge for some time.  We also are making bargains relative to new fears.  Keep my kids safe from anthrax or smallpox and I will spend more time at home and less at work.  For many now the dominant feeling is depression.  Our leaders have told us the best way to get through this is to go back to normal.  You may have said the same thing to your employees.  But what's normal about fighter cover over the city?  What's normal about worrying where the next attack will be?  What's normal about wondering if it is safe to spend the holidays with family across the country?  What's normal about worrying whether the water is safe or where the military has just sent a loved one?  Two months later, we still have a tremendous amount of information to absorb before we can adjust to this new world.
        The only effective antidote to this grief was documented by Kubler-Ross many years ago and it is Time.  Each of us needs time to move through this process at our own pace.  Meanwhile, we will go through the motions of our daily routines, but not with the same commitment, concentration, or effort we had in the past.  At least, not until time allows each of us to adjust to and accept this changed world.  We have to redefine normal before we can return to normalcy.

Post Traumatic Stress
        Post traumatic stress often occurs after an event that is outside the range of usual human experience.  What happened September 11 was most definitely outside the scope of anything we had ever experienced before.  These were events that triggered feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror.  There are many symptoms for post traumatic stress.  Individuals may experience any combination of these symptoms and these symptoms may be delayed or become more evident at any time following the traumatic event.  The symptoms include:

  1. Recurring nightmares about the event(s).
  2. Difficulty sleeping.
  3. Changes in appetite.
  4. Feelings of anxiety or fear, especially when exposed to events or situations reminiscent of the trauma (e.g., flying)
  5. Jumpiness, edginess, exaggerated startle reflex, or becoming overly alert.
  6. Depression, sadness, and a lack of energy.  Sense of despair or hopelessness.  Spontaneous crying.
  7. Memory problems.
  8. Feeling "scattered" or "off center" and unable to focus on work or daily activities.  Difficulty making decisions or carrying out plans.
  9. Irritability, agitation, or feelings of anger and resentment.
  10. Feeling emotionally "numb", withdrawn, disconnected, or different from others.
  11. Overprotective of loved ones or fear for the safety of loved ones.
  12. Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma, and avoiding activities, places, or even people that remind them of the event(s).
Effects on the Organization Where to go for Help
        If the company has an Employee Assistance Program, start making referrals.  If not, contact outside organizations to provide help.  These include:         With the help of someone or some group trained and experienced in crisis counseling, set up forums in-house for employees to talk about what they are feeling, their concerns, etc.  Several local organizations have sent crisis counselors to New York and have direct experience with this event.
        Be observant.
        Give them and yourself time.  Trying to push people through the recovery process will not increase productivity.  It typically only serves to prolong the recovery time.

Reading Materials That Might Be Useful

Matsakis, A. (1996)  I Can’t Get Over It: A Handbook For Trauma Survivors, Second Edition.  Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications

Kubler-Ross, E. (1981)  On Death and Dying.  New York: Alfred Knopf Publishing.

These materials were prepared by:

Jeanette A. Davy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Management
Wright State University
(937) 775-2871

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About the Newsletter and Subscriptions
        The LeaderLetter is normally written by Dr. Scott Williams, Department of Management, Raj Soin College of Business, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.  It is a supplement to my MBA 751 – Managing People in Organizations class.  It is intended to reinforce the course concepts and maintain communication among my former MBA 751 students, but anyone is welcome to subscribe.  In addition, subscribers are welcome to forward this newsletter to anyone who they believe would have an interest in it.  To subscribe, simply send an e-mail message to me requesting subscription.  Of course, subscriptions to the newsletter are free.  To unsubscribe, e-mail a reply indicating that you would like to unsubscribe.

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E-mail Your Comments
        Whether you are one of my former students or not, I invite you to share any insights or concerns you have regarding the topic of this newsletter or any other topic relating to management skills.  Please e-mail them to me.  Our interactions have been invaluable.  Let’s keep the conversation going.

Good, Clean Joke (or, at least a clean one)

Work Versus Prison

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