CEO Leadership in the Eye of the Storm

Hurricane Ian was bearing down on southwest Florida when Postcard Mania CEO Joy Gendusa hopped on a video call with her employees from her SUV as she was headed out of town.


The storm would be “a nothing burger,” Gendusa said, and the expectation was that workers should be in the office and on the job despite evacuation advisories and forecasts showing the storm headed their way. She advised employees to bring their kids and pets to take shelter at the Clearwater, Florida, facility so that they would not miss any work.


“Obviously you feeling safe and comfortable is of the utmost importance, but I honestly want to continue to deliver and I want to have a good end of quarter,” Gendusa told workers as the storm approached. “And when [Hurricane Ian] turns into nothing, I don’t want it to be like, ‘Great, we all stopped producing because of the media and the maybe that it was going to be terrible.’”


“There’s always more hype in the media than any storm that has ever hit here,” she added.


The message didn’t fly so well with worried workers, and the company soon went into damage-control mode and back-peddled after the story went viral, first allowing employees to work from home (provided they put in a full 40 hours) and later declaring that workers would have two paid days off. But it was too late to prevent reputational damage to the business and preserve any goodwill with workers. Against the backdrop of the Great Resignation, so-called Quiet Quitting and the work-from-home balance of power, the PostcardMania saga has become fodder for what’s ailing the relationship between workers and managers.


“Gendusa’s remarks come as the pandemic and burnout have led many to reevaluate their work conditions, giving rise to conversations about the Great Resignation and quiet quitting,” writes the Washington Post.


“Gendusa’s remarks made them feel as if their safety was less important than the company making a profit. Even when officials were ordering some to evacuate their homes, management expected them to work from the office, employees said.”


More than that, decisions and directives like these can place workers and the public at risk and expose the company to liability. In 2021, a Texas jury returned a $5.9 million verdict against a Texas-based oil field services company that required workers to report for duty in order to be paid for days in which work was canceled because of inclement weather. When a worker speeding to a jobsite lost control on a slick road and caused a crash that killed three children, jurors agreed that the company bore responsibility for the deaths because the “show-up rule” induced workers to be on the road when it wasn’t safe to drive.


Besides being tone deaf leadership during a time of crisis, there seems to be something else going on. It’s interesting that while some employers are making an effort to be flexible in work schedules and allow remote work, others are inflexible to the point of being unreasonable in their demands, and sometimes break the law in doing so. Whether its medical leave, parental leave or emergencies like a Category 4 hurricane, employers who bluntly wield power over employees with rigid policies often regret it.  

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