9/11 was scary. There was a time when people would ask, “Where were you on 9/11?” and they would share their stories of fear, horror, and how that fateful day changed them forever.
Often the people who are best at helping with fears are people who work with children. Mister Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
I owned Concordia Consulting on 9/11, and I was working from home that day. In the morning, I went for a regularly scheduled chiropractic appointment, and when I asked my chiropractor, Dr. Tedesco, why she was still holding appointments, she said rather unremarkably, “We don’t know what is happening, or what is going to happen. I help people feel better, and when life is spinning out of control, I think normalcy, even the pretense of normalcy is helpful.” Her calm and gentle words stayed with me.
On April 16, 2007, I was conducting a program on the day of the Virginia Tech massacre. The group had taken a break for lunch and when we checked our phones, we heard the terrifying news. I grew up seven miles from Virginia Tech and many of my friends and relatives worked on the campus. I was shaken to say the least.
I remembered what Dr. Tedesco said and I gathered myself and came back for the remainder of the program. I offered that the participants might want to share a few moments of communal silence, which we did. We agreed that those who needed to leave to check on loved ones should leave, yet most of the participants stayed. We finished the program.
I hope we will all be safe and our loved ones, our friends, and our colleagues will be well and safe. I hope you will never need to remember these words, but just in case.
We don’t know where we will be if and when tragedy strikes, but if you find yourself at work, there are ways that you can be helpful and bring calm to your colleagues.
We can’t control tragedies. What can we do if a tragedy occurs while we are at work?
First, get everyone to safety.
Bringing people together at times of fear and upheaval is always a good idea.
Returning to routine helps people feel grounded and safe.
Allowing each person to grieve and feel fear in their own way is important.
May you always be a helper.
Approximately 10 years ago, I was working with a consultant to help me grow my business. I’ll call her Barbara. She came to me with outstanding references and she had some excellent suggestions. Not too long after I met her, she suggested that we spend some time at the beginning and end of our sessions quieting ourselves. She wanted us to connect to ourselves, connect to our breath, connect to the space we were sitting in.
WHAT? I was paying her by the hour! She wanted to spend 10 minutes — 5 minutes at the beginning and end — of our session doing nothing but breathing? Those would be VERY expensive breaths! I thought she was crazy. I thought she was stealing money from me. I thought I was far too busy to spend 10 minutes a day mindlessly. I politely ended our work together.
This morning, having left my hour-long yoga class, I am perusing my calendar to see what time my meditation will begin. Now that I practice yoga regularly and am an intermittent meditator, I can feel, notice, and understand the benefits of trained quietness, trained peacefulness, trained mindfulness. And those benefits extend to both my work and personal life.
I see now that Barbara was way ahead of her time and she knew exactly what I needed. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to embrace her wisdom at the time, but I recognize it as wisdom now.
Who has showered you with wisdom? And what was that wisdom?
I was facilitating a retreat last week and Nida, a participant, told me that her manager makes her absolutely crazy. As Nida described her manager, Adam, he did indeed sound like a jerk.
Adam sent directions for all of Nida’s tasks via email. Even when starting a new project that would last for months, Nida learned about the project via email. This would have been understandable if the two were across continents or time zones; in actuality, they sat across the hall from one another.
But that’s not all. Adam never recognized Nida; he didn’t tell her thank you for her work. As I questioned this, Nida twisted her computer screen so I could see it. Just as Nida said, there were a slew of messages from Adam, yet none of the completed tasks received a thank you…not even a “thx.”
Nida shared all the injustices with me. Adam piled on the work. He didn’t care about her as a person. He never offered appreciation. He didn’t recognize all the work Nida was performing. He didn’t want the office coverage to suffer so he never allowed Nida to take a Monday or Friday off; those were the days Adam saved for himself.
After listening and verifying Nida’s impressions with others in the organization, I learned that what Nida was alleging was true, or at least nearly true.
Nida said to me, “Can you fix Adam? After all, that is what you do, right?” She continued, “Can’t you write him up? Can’t you get him fired?”
Actually, I had to tell her, “No, I cannot.” One of my coaching colleagues says often, “There’s no law that says managers need to be considerate or kind. While it is the best practice, what’s acceptable in one organization may not be tolerated in the next.”
While I do try to help every level of employee to be more relational, more appreciative, and more collaborative, unless the organizational culture supports and sometimes demands a collaborative work environment, little if any change will occur.
When we stay in toxic environments, most of us become toxic ourselves. I know that has become true for Nida. She complained a lot, moved from task to task slowly, and completed her work always doing the minimum.
How about you? If you are so miserable, why are you still there?