The Fallout From Hurricane Sandy

I’m not going to pretend this is a normal workday at JCK—the bulk of our staff works and lives in New York City, and as you might have heard, we have had quite a week. Everyone here at the magazine appears to be all right, though some of us still don’t have electricity. We appreciate the expressions of concern we’ve received from all over. At times like this, we are reminded at what a small and tight-knit industry this is.

Obviously, for those of us in the Northeast, this is an enormous human disaster as well as an economic one. It’s possible that some jewelers have had their stores destroyed or gravely damaged. At the very least, many jewelers don’t have power—though that probably doesn’t matter much anyway, since it’s safe to say locals won’t do a lot of jewelry shopping in the next few days.

In fact, CNNMoney just singled out “jewelry retailers” as one of the sectors likely to be hurt by this disaster, which it says should cost the area “billions” in revenue, particulary since it struck in the middle of the week. Reuters said the economic effect could be double or triple the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. As one analyst put it: “Macy’s is not going to get days like this back. It’s November. Every day counts.”

Having talked to jewelers following disasters over the years, I can tell you that sometimes (though not always), these disasters do help the area’s economy in the long run after all the money comes pouring in for rebuidling—what CNNMoney calls “a grisly stimulus package.” But in the short term, we are looking at quite a tough situation.

Obviously, these disasters don’t take only a financial toll. A while back, in the aftermath of 9/11, I wrote a story about “coping with crisis,” which includes some tips on dealing with natural disasters and other calamities, and may be helpful: 

“How you handle a crisis can be ‘make or break’ for a company,” says Mark Falango, director of consulting and training for Corporate Counseling in New York, a group that administers employee assistance programs. “It can rip an organization apart, or bring people closer together.”

The key, experts say, is to show both sensitivity and flexibility. In the aftermath of a crisis, managers should be more willing than usual to bend office rules on dress codes and work schedules and to ease restrictions on children in the office and using the telephone for personal calls.

When a crisis strikes or a stressful situation materializes, leaders and managers tend to listen to subordinates less than during normal circumstances. But experts say this is the time to listen more. Each person handles stressful incidents in his own way. Some may seem fine at first and fall apart later. Others react immediately and recover just as quickly. Employees should be told there is no “right” or “wrong” way to handle a crisis.

Naturally, from the business owner’s point of view, it’s best if everyone returns to work as soon as possible. This approach, however, is not right for everyone. Although many find reestablishing a routine ultimately helpful, many workers need to take time off in the wake of a traumatic incident, especially if it occurred on the work premises.

“Returning to work is really an individual experience,” says Falango. “I’ve seen robberies where people can get back to work a minute later, and then there are others where people can’t get back to work for a month.”

Experts say that forcing people to return to work before they are fully able could breed resentment or lead to burnout. Remember, those who don’t return immediately are no less dedicated than other employees—they simply need more time to deal with what happened. Sometimes just giving people the choice of whether or not to return is therapeutic because it gives them a sense of control.

The rest is here.

We wish the best to all our readers affected by this disaster. Feel free to share your experiences or thoughts below.

For more coverage on the jewelry industry and Hurricane Sandy, check out:

JCK News Director