Managing Employee Trauma: Dealing with the Emotional Fallout from 9-11

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The events of September 11, 2001, rocked the nation. While great attention was riveted on Ground Zero and the drama of individuals directly dealing with the tragedy's aftermath, there has been less assessment of how employees in general were affected by this crisis. What impact did this terrorist event have on employees in the workplace? Are there lessons that can be learned to effectively manage employee reactions to terror next time? This article reports on a survey capturing employee reactions three months after the September 11th attacks. The results suggest that while managers have responded to employees' physical safety concerns since the crisis, they have paid less attention to their emotional concerns. The survey revealed that many employees were reacting to the crisis in a manner similar to that of people who have witnessed a traumatic event. We show that, three months after the event, prominent emotional responses included fear, denial, and anger. We also show that there is a "saliency effect"; certain groups--especially women, employees with children, and those located closer to the crises--were more likely to be affected emotionally. We conclude by arguing that managers should be trained in recognizing and responding to employee trauma and offer suggestions that may enable managers to deal with crisis events in a way that preserves employee morale.


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Academy of Management Executive

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Mainiero, L.A. & Gibson, D.E. 2003. "Managing Employee Trauma: Dealing with the Emotional Fallout from 9-11." Academy of Management Executive, 17(3), 130-143

Peer Reviewed