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Morale Management Key to Effective Disaster Management

The world over, thousands of doctors and supporting personnel fighting the corona war have died. This is indeed tragic. We should urge government to treat their sacrifice at par with military casualties occurring in a regular war.

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Future critics will judge political leaders fighting the corona pandemic not only for their timely decision making on major issues but also day-to-day governance issues and morale-building of those in the frontline of this war. That will determine our ability to handle future crises.
Thanks to President Trump, the US offers solid case studies in morale management. He has shown scant regard for those fighting this common war, for instance, the Governors of the various US states, including one most critically affected – New York. His tweets of “Liberate Michigan” and “Liberate Minnesota” and “Liberate Virginia” spurred protesters agitating against continuance of lock-downs imposed by their Governors. This was not just a case of bad Centre-State relations – but one of pricking the morale of Governors – frontline crisis managers. As a damaging consequence, in the recent race and anti-police riots, these Governors boycotted the request of the Federal government to send their troops to Washington DC to quell the violence.

 A particularly noteworthy case from the morale management angle is that of the top naval warship USS Theodore Roosevelt with 4865 naval staff on board. The Captain of the ship realized, within days after their ship returned from Vietnam that they had several sailors affected by Covid. He sent a frantic message to multiple superiors to help quickly evacuate the entire crew, explaining that since they were not at war, even a single sailor should not be allowed to perish unnecessarily. This was viewed as an excessive pressing of the panic button by a military official who had thereby compromised information about his battle worthiness to the enemy.

The Navy Secretary flew to the ship and in a 15-minute speech in front of the entire crew, openly criticized the Captain by calling him naïve and stupid and unfit to be commanding a ship of this size. Not surprisingly, when sacked from his job, the captain received a rousing farewell from the entire crew. More than a thousand of the crew were afflicted, vindicating the Captain’s contention. Captain Brett Crozier’s termination has become one of the most controversial personnel matters ever in US military history. That the US President was aware and encouraged the sacking of the Captain was a further blow to military morale – after all the captain was merely pointing out the threat from an invisible enemy.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Modi bought the support of doctors and medical staff at an early stage through the timely law to prosecute those harassing them. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu’s article of appreciation of civil servants on Civil Service day was a morale-booster for bureaucrats. Globally, Angela Merkel of Germany and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand are today recognized more than just efficient administrators – as balanced and empathetic leaders.

The world over, thousands of doctors and supporting personnel fighting the corona war have died. This is indeed tragic. We should urge government to treat their sacrifice at par with military casualties occurring in a regular war.

Conversely, as a society this is not the time for a blame game. Everybody needs to display bipartisan appreciation of the situation and give constructive suggestions. Military commanders sometimes make blatant errors of judgement in the heat of the moment causing huge fatalities. But at this time, societal wisdom lies in keeping their morale high and in not questioning their motives.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
disaster management plan coronavirus outbreak COVID-19

Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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