The American Psychoanalytic Association (APSAA)

Suggestions for Chief Executives on Managing Psychological Fallout after the Disaster

Cites consultant Kerry J. Sulkowicz

Kerry J. Sulkowicz, M.D., President of The Boswell Group, LLC, has volunteered his services to corporate chief executives in helping companies directly affected by the disaster cope with the psychological aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center.

Dr. Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is the founder of The Boswell Group, LLC, a Manhattan consulting firm that advises business leaders on psychological aspects of management and corporate culture. As a business consultant, Dr. Sulkowicz brings together his expertise in the psychological effects of trauma on groups and individuals, with his in-depth knowledge and experience of the business world.

Several points are crucial for CEO’s to bear in mind when guiding their companies through these extraordinarily difficult times:

  • All businesses and all employees, whether directly involved in the attack or not, will have psychological reactions. Wall Street firms and financial services companies may be most affected.
  • Running a complex business organization may come intuitively to a CEO, but responding to a crisis of such magnitude and with such severe psychological consequences may not be a natural extension of the CEO’s leadership skills.
  • The quality of leadership and the interaction between a particular company’s unique corporate culture and the effects of the disaster may be the crucial determinants in how the company weathers the disaster.
  • CEO’s, precisely because of their position, may be the least likely to receive emotional support and guidance from within the firm, and need to be particularly attuned to their own emotional states in order to better care for their employees.
  • Senior management is no less vulnerable to post-traumatic reactions than other employees, and may actually be more susceptible to using various forms of denial as a maladaptive way of coping. Managers may become particularly stressed because of their need to take care of others.
  • Employees at all levels of the organization need to be able to speak openly about their personal experiences of the tragedy; failure to do so will result in much greater psychological morbidity over time.
  • Employees should be offered liberal and easy access to mental health services upon request. Managed care restrictions on care should be lifted.
  • Long-term consequences of the crisis need to be monitored in terms of potentially damaging effects on morale, corporate culture, capacity for risk-taking and innovation, hiring, relations with foreign companies, leadership succession, etc.

Dr. Sulkowicz writes and speaks frequently on the psychology of management and leadership. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Industry Standard and other publications.

He can be reached directly at 212 737-1542, or by email at