THE MAGAZINE

The Victim, the Family, the Company: The Three Dimensions of Consequence During a Kidnapping

By Christopher Voss

One of your employees has been kidnapped overseas. You feel the initial shock of hearing the news. Your instant reaction is “I’m responsible. He’s there on my behalf. We’re going to get him out if I have to myself.” Your mind springs into gear. You go through your mental list of processes and procedures, thinking about how your organization will accomplish this task. If, in that moment, you are thinking about changing your approach to making decisions in a crisis, you may be admitting to yourself that you are not completely satisfied with your company’s existing decision-making structure.

There’s a reason for that: most organizations only know the environment they exist in where consequences and ramifications are well understood through collective experience. You and your employees have come to know the “if … thens” of your industry: if this action occurs, then this reaction will follow.
 
A kidnapping strikes you with a sequence of unknowns. Those who are used to weighing in suddenly find themselves facing a deep, black void. Decision makers and stakeholders struggle to apply their collective experience—their “if … thens”—but during a kidnapping everything appears frighteningly new.  The decision-making process grinds to a halt. Now that lives are on the line you fear that a wrong decision or a wrong move will cause disaster. Inaction can become what appears to be the safest response. Kidnappings are not like everyday situations, but they have their own set of “if … thens.” 
 
In a kidnapping scenario, decisions must be made in light of three dimensions of consequences. A seasoned kidnap and ransom (K&R) professional makes all the difference integrating these three areas legitimately and morally. You must ensure your professional understands the three dimensions of consequence. If the seasoned professional you work with can’t or doesn’t talk with you about these three distinct areas, it’s a bad sign.
 
Three Dimensions of Consequence
 
The primary dimension of consequence is the life of the victim. While it seems obvious, this apparently clear fact can become startlingly obscure as you are made painfully aware of other consequences.
 
The second dimension of consequence is the victim’s family and colleagues, and the impact and ramifications the kidnapping will have on them. This dimension is the most often overlooked during preparations and the one that will likely present you with the most problems during a kidnapping (hard to believe but true).
 
The third dimension of consequence is the ramifications for your organization or business. This area of consequence is never overlooked but most often secretly obsessed over. It somehow seems immoral to worry about the impact on your company when one of your employees' lives is threatened. Yet the company still represents a source of livelihood for that employee and many other employees as well. While it isn’t a consideration to be elevated over the life of the hostage at any time, neither is it a consideration you can abandon.
 
All three dimensions tend to converge over the central issue of ransom. This is one of the horns of the dilemma upon which your organization will find itself impaled. Among those affected, there will be many conflicting opinions on how to deal with the issue of ransom.
 

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