Crisis Communication:
A National Study of Leadership During the Financial Crisis
© 2009 - Ruby A. Rouse, PhD & Rich S. Schuttler, PhD
Why do leaders "speak no evil" during the financial crisis?
A study funded by the NRC examines crisis communication

June 26, 2009 - In May, 787,000 additional Americans lost their jobs - bringing the total number of unemployed to 14.5 million (United States Department of Labor, 2009). Even individuals who retain their jobs are not immune to the influence of the financial crisis. In an effort to save money, cash-strapped companies often cut employee pay and reduce working hours (Kiviat, 2009).


Understandably, workers are fearful about how the financial crisis will influence their jobs. In a national survey of American employees, about 62% said they expect their organizations will have difficulty meeting performance objectives in 2009; and 70% believe economic issues will cause financial problems for their companies. The vast majority of employees (71%) said their companies’ leadership should proactively

NRC Study Focuses on Crisis Communication

In an effort to learn how supervisors from various industries are communicating with their employees, the University of Phoenix National Research Center (NRC) awarded a 2009 research grant to investigate leadership communication during the financial crisis. In the grant proposal, Dr. Ruby Rouse and Dr. Richard Schuttler suggested the magnitude and timing of the financial crisis presented a limited window of opportunity to study the leadership process (NRC, 2009).

Data was collected online for six weeks in the summer of 2009. The investigation asked employees to share thoughts about how effectively (if at all) supervisors communicate about the impact of the financial crisis. “The economic and personal consequences of the crisis demonstrate how leaders must be prepared to cope with variables outside their control as well as communicate unexpected policy and vision changes to stakeholders,” Dr. Schuttler said.

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communicate about the current economic problems. Yet 54% of surveyed workers reported their bosses have said nothing about how the financial crisis will affect their companies (Weber Shandwick, 2008). With the United  States facing “one of the most turbulent times in American history” (Pepicello, 2008), it is unclear why its business leaders choose to 'speak no evil' to employees about the implications of the financial crisis.

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