Board Cafe: What Now?

Board Cafe

What NOW?

By Kathleen Edmond, Esquire, M.B.A., LICSW

The following article was written to help companies respond appropriately to the September 11 events, but it's also strikingly appropriate for MANY of the kinds of crises that nonprofits experience. In CompassPoint's consulting practice we have known organizations that have lost long-time and beloved leaders, that have suffered fires or vandalism, that have been exposed to media attacks (because, for instance, a client of many years ago has been implicated in a crime), or that have discovered embezzlement or other acts by trusted staff or board members. This advice can be helpful to boards and staff managers in such times.

Soon we will all need to get ourselves and our companies back to business. How can we do this in a way that is respectful and helpful, but at the same time doesn't create issues that do not exist?

  1. Speak to the organization. Pull management together to discuss their responsibilities and give them guidance. Acknowledge their dual roles as managers and individuals with personal feelings.
  2. Depending on the size and configuration of the organization, pull people together in groups. It is not important to have all the answers right now. Communication will continue.
  3. Acknowledge that the world is now different. We must each individually and organizationally replace that with something different.
  4. Acknowledge that individuals will respond and recover at different paces. Some will want to get back to work as quickly as possible. Others will have difficulty focusing for a long time (it will be sporadic and not a constant inability to focus).
  5. Allow people to talk periodically during the day. Remind people to take care of themselves and their families and friends.
  6. Consider allowing employees additional personal time off to attend services, or other community-focused events.
  7. Remind people to use the Employee Assistance Program, health benefits, and other resources.
  8. Talk about the impact on your specific business and what effect it has on the company.

Longer term you will have questions about what to do with employees who cannot seem to focus after a reasonable length of time. And you will have questions about what is a reasonable length of time. Assure people that these questions will be addressed as they arise.

This is an abridged version of an article, reprinted with permission, from Employment Practices Solutions at

Original publication date: 10-01-2001

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