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Managed Care Takes on New Meaning
Following 911

by Craig Harrison
This article appeared
in the December, 2001 edition of

Customer Service Newsletter


While the events surrounding 9-11 did bring work teams together in distinct ways, they also resulted in differing reactions by employees in the same teams, groups and departments. That's because even when a common event occurs, each individual brings different perspectives, life's experiences and reactions to the event, as well as differing coping mechanisms. Managers must be sensitive to the differing reactions and differing needs of their people following traumatic events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11.

In the aftermath of a major tragedy such as 9-11:

Solace through work. Some employees throw themselves into their work, as an escape mechanism. They find work comforting, occupying their mind and body where they'd otherwise be obsessing about the tragedies and their aftermath. For some, this represents denial on their part. For others, just the recognition that return to their routine, or to that which they have control over, is calming. Overcompensating has its own drawbacks so be attentive to such singlemindedness.

Walking Wounded. Some employees may outwardly appear to be adjusting well to the stress, yet inwardly are reliving previous trauma they may have experienced, whether as an adult or even as a child. Old wounds are opened and they re-experience the horror of pain, suffering, powerlessness, and more. Ask to insure they are OK. They may not be.

Cacooning. Some employees visibly withdraw as fear overtakes them. When their trust and confidence in the world they live in is compromised, they begin reexamining many of their assumptions. In cases like 9/11, a rise in xenophobia can occur, and many people retreat to the safer world of their family and close friends, as they seek to re-establish trust with the outside world.

Delayed Reactions. Some employees actually lost family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. In many cases, the loss wasn’t apparent until days or weeks later. A delayed reaction thus ensues.

Resources Help. As a manager, let your people know of counseling and other employee assistance programs available to help them discreetly in ways they may need. As well, be more attentive to your peoples' moods. When possible, ask the group how they're feeling and what they'd like as a form of relief: a picnic, movie day, or a visit from a massage therapist for back rubs or a humorous or motivational speaker from the National Speakers Association to help them heal.

I've personally lived through group events such as earthquakes, a calamitous urban firestorm which devoured 3000 homes and 25 lives, and more personal losses. People are wonderful in the short term but forget healing takes time, and varies by person.

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