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.
And this week, you are still there and your colleagues wish you had left!
That’s right. Last week, I wrote a blog called “Why Are You Still There”. When I wrote the article, my intention was that readers would think about all the reasons their work was fulfilling and their workplace was positive. Fortunately, I heard from a number of my readers about the rewards they find in their work and from their colleagues.
I would have been thrilled, but I heard about a few cases where recipients of the blog added a caustic note, “Yeah, why are YOU still here?” and sent it to colleagues. If it had happened once, I would have been bummed, but I am aware that it happened in several different organizations.
What I know about that behavior is that the sender:
- didn’t have the courage to talk to the person directly
- didn’t have the skills to talk to the person directly
- hides behind email rather than talking face-to-face
- felt superior to his or her colleague
- didn’t see that one’s behavior influences (in this case negatively) the behavior of peers
Only workplace bullies would send a hurtful message like that to a peer, a manager, or a subordinate. Our role as colleagues is to make the workplace positive and productive for all. We must support one another and bring out the best in one another. We should act as though our work depends on the success of others. In organizations where employees are accountable, their work does depend on the success of others.
I do hope you will forward these blogs to your colleagues and your associates. And when you do choose to forward them, send them as a way to build another person’s confidence, to show your admiration for them, and to appreciate them.
Isn’t it interesting that the same article can be used to empower or to hurt?
If you are in business and you want to make a point, lighten up.
A few weeks ago I wrote that the more serious the topic, the more humor is needed.
A grocery store in Vancouver understands, and they are using humor to make their point.
Humor is the way they are promoting their business and helping the environment. In order to get customers to stop using single-use plastic bags, they have printed embarrassing bags. They are “playing” with their customers and teaching them to remember:
I can hardly wait to see what they will do with their single-use plastic bottles! I bet that’s next.
What businesses have you seen use humor effectively?