Crisis Management of Human Resources: Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

By Premeaux, Sonya F.; Breaux, Denise | Human Resource Planning, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Crisis Management of Human Resources: Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita


Premeaux, Sonya F., Breaux, Denise, Human Resource Planning


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast a valuable lesson about the ability of management to plan for every contingency--it cannot. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it strikes and try to be better prepared the next time. We examine crisis management from a human resource perspective and offer insights into how to minimize losses and disruption should disaster occur. HR managers' centralized location for employee relations, and expertise in communications, writing human resource policies and procedures, and employee training and development offers them the opportunity to make valuable contributions in crisis management planning and implementation. Through lessons learned from these recent storms, we offer specific recommendations on how HR managers can do so. Using examples of how organizations responded to these crises, we illustrate what worked well and what did not in HR.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Recent events have underscored the need to think about the unthinkable. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast valuable lessons about the abilities of management to plan for every contingency--it cannot. No matter how forward-thinking company managers are, there is no way to plan for every possibility when a crisis strikes. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it does happen and try to be better prepared the next time.

After terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, many managers in the United States revisited their crisis management plans with hopes that they would be prepared should a similar disaster, whether manmade or natural, hit (Kondrasuk, 2004). Because Hurricanes Katrina and Rita packed a one-two punch to the Gulf Coast, many businesses across the country again are examining their disaster preparedness and crisis management plans in light of new lessons learned. This article examines crisis management (CM) from a human resource perspective and offers valuable insights on how to minimize losses and disruption should disaster strike.

We begin by defining CM, outlining the phases of the CM process, and exploring how the concept of organizational learning relates to CM. In particular we illustrate that now is the optimal time to learn from these crises. We then examine the HR manager's role in CM and how HR managers can take advantage of these recent crises to improve their organizations' responses to future events. We offer specific recommendations to improve CM in the HR arena and use several examples to illustrate what HR managers have learned and how these lessons can minimize disruptions in the future.

Crisis Management and Organizational Learning

An organizational crisis is "a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly" (Pearson & Clair, 1998). CM involves a systematic attempt by managers to prevent crises from occurring and to manage crises successfully when they do take place. CM begins long before a crisis occurs and continues long after recovery (Pearson, et al., 1997). Three major stages of CM include (Castillo, 2004; Heath, 1998):

1. Pre-crisis or planning: Managers plan how to respond to crisis events that may occur;

2. The crisis itself: Managers respond to the crisis in hopes of reducing or mitigating its impact; and

3. Post-crisis or recovery: Managers assess the damage and attempt to return the organization to at least its pre-crisis state.

The literature on CM and organizational learning suggests that crises may be beneficial if specific learning outcomes are encouraged, because crises create learning readiness in organizations (Kovoor-Misra & Nathan, 2000). They shine a light on organizational weaknesses that might otherwise remain hidden or be ignored. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Crisis Management of Human Resources: Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.