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.
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.
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
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.
Denial - this can't be happening.
Anger - why did this have to happen?
Bargaining - I promise I'll never ask for another thing if only you will
Depression - a gloom that comes from having to adjust to so much so quickly.
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
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:
Effects on the Organization
Recurring nightmares about the event(s).
Changes in appetite.
Feelings of anxiety or fear, especially when exposed to events or situations
reminiscent of the trauma (e.g., flying)
Jumpiness, edginess, exaggerated startle reflex, or becoming overly alert.
Depression, sadness, and a lack of energy. Sense of despair or hopelessness.
Feeling "scattered" or "off center" and unable to focus on work or daily
activities. Difficulty making decisions or carrying out plans.
Irritability, agitation, or feelings of anger and resentment.
Feeling emotionally "numb", withdrawn, disconnected, or different from
Overprotective of loved ones or fear for the safety of loved ones.
Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma, and avoiding activities,
places, or even people that remind them of the event(s).
Where to go for Help
Employees isolate themselves from others.
Reduced ability to work as a team.
More conflicts among co-workers.
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.
Mental Health Counselors
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
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About the Newsletter
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.
Joke (or, at least a clean one)
Work Versus Prison
In prison you spend the majority of your time in an 8' x 10' cell.
At work you spend most of your time in a 6' x 8' cubicle.
In prison you get three meals a day.
At work you only get a break for one meal and you have to pay for that
In prison you get time off for good behavior.
At work you get rewarded for good behavior with more work.
In prison a guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
At work you must carry around a security card and unlock and open all the
In prison you can watch TV and play games.
At work you get fired for watching TV and playing games.
In prison they ball-and-chain you when you go somewhere.
At work you are just ball-and-chained.
In prison they allow your family and friends to visit.
At work you might not even get one phone call.
In prison taxpayers pay all expenses with no work required.
At work you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct
taxes from your salary to pay for the prisoners.
In prison you spend most of your life looking through bars from the inside
wanting to get out.
At work you spend most of your time wanting to get out and inside a bar.
In prison you can join many programs that you can leave at any time.
At work there are some programs you can never get out of.
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In prison there are wardens who are often sadistic.
At work we have managers.