Survey of employees examines the post-September 11 workplace


An online Internet survey of 5,860 employees, taken three months after the Sept. 11 attacks, was designed to discern "whether or not managers and executives felt the need to alter their corporate, personnel and/or security policies in response to the crisis," says Dr. Lisa A. Mainiero, professor of management at Fairfield University's Charles F. Dolan School of Business, the author of the study. The results will be reported in the next issue of Business Horizons, expected out in October.

Dr. Mainiero conducted the survey from December 11 to January 11, because she was interested in how people were reacting once the initial shock had worn off. In addition to looking at practical issues, such as cyber-security, more visible positioning of security guards, and the handling of the mailroom, employees were asked about their personal reactions to the crisis.

One of the surprising findings was that only 13.5 percent of respondents said their firms were screening applicants more closely, in spite of wide-spread reports that the terrorists had managed to obtain false automobile and pilot licenses.

One third of the sample reported their firms were being more cautious with mail than before. And while some employees reported an initial halt to airline travel, most said they had resumed travel duties as needed. A little over nine percent of respondents said their firms were using audio or video conferencing as an alternative to travel.

Under stress, the study points out, problems of concentration and focus at work can affect productivity. And in fact, 59 percent reported having more anxiety about personal safety and 47 percent said they had problems concentrating.

"Participants in our survey seemed disappointed with the minimal reactions their firms had in response to 9/11," the report says. "Only 11.9 percent reported, 'My firm has established procedures for dealing with employees' emotional needs, such as discussion groups, for people to talk about world events and how things might affect them.'" Nearly 50 percent of the employees reported there had been no changes to personnel policies at all since the attack. Dr. Mainiero concluded that "most executives expected business to return to normal and go on as usual with a minimum of disruption."

The respondents, she noted, "were looking to their corporations to take the lead and offer some solace in the form of counsel. Focused discussion groups cost nothing and yet can yield a brainstorming effect of ideas the firm can use to manage public relations issues and/or deal with security concerns on the production line."

On a more personal level, Dr. Mainiero found that employees sought comfort in their families. "An overwhelming 78 percent of all respondents said they agreed with the statement, 'Since the events of September 11, I have spent more time with family members.'"

Dr. Mainiero conducted her survey through Greenfield Online, a market research firm in Westport, Conn. People responding to the survey worked in about 30 areas of employment, including education, health care, government, manufacturing, sales, sciences, the military and transportation. They were somewhat disproportionately female and well-educated.

In her article, Dr. Mainiero wrote, "It is alarming how employees have indicated in this broad, widespread survey that their firms have taken very little, if any, action in response to the terrorist attacks. There is a mindset of 'it can't happen here' that may eventually lead to a breakdown of the entire system - and the firm's reputation - that deserves attention."

Dr. Mainiero, who earned two master's degrees in administrative services and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Yale University, gained national attention with her book, "Office Romance: Love, Power & Sex in the Workplace." She also did an in-depth study of powerful women executives.

To arrange an interview with Dr. Mainiero, please call Nancy Habetz, director of media relations, at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647. After hours: (203) 259-1884 or (203) 451-1725.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 21, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 47