A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
On September 11, I was conducting a workshop when John, the person
responsible for the workshop, came in to inform us of the horrific events
that had taken place that morning. Tears welled up in his eyes as he
spoke, and the mood in the room became somber. Suddenly the concepts being
taught in the workshop seemed insignificant in contrast to what had
happened, and I wondered how to proceed.
We decided to continue with the workshop, but speed things up so that
everyone could get out a bit early. It was one of the most difficult days
of work I've had; I craved the comforts of my home and family, and
desperately wanted to know the details of the day's events, but did my
best to maintain focus and do my job. In the car ride home, my ear was on
the radio, and when I finally arrived, for the first time I saw the
reality and magnitude of what had happened.
In the days that followed, I had telephone calls to return, another
workshop to prepare for and a column to write, yet had no sense of urgency
to get things done; how could anything compare in importance to what was
taking place in our country? As I began to prepare this week's column and
look through the many questions I receive, I realized that this time I was
the one with the questions, and very few answers. There are so many issues
and problems we all face day to day, and I have been fortunate to have
this space week after week to use as a vehicle for discussion. There are
familiar themes that come my way week after week; stressful work
environments, lack of appreciation, unfair treatment, unrealistic
expectations, and the challenge of working with difficult people.
Individually, we must deal with the situations we encounter, but this week
we all share many of the same concerns. I wonder how many people,
including myself, forgot about many of the typical daily challenges and
frustrations last week, and focused instead on the terrible tragedy that
had taken place.
In the workshop I was facilitating, once we learned of the events,
there was something unique about the way we interacted and the connection
we felt with each other. I wonder how many other workplaces took on a
different tone that day too.
Two days later, as I was still recovering from the shock of what had
happened, I had a workshop to conduct. I wondered how to go on with
business as usual when it was anything but usual, but it ended up being a
great day because something was different; there was a commonality among
us. Perhaps we were viewing each other differently, and were united in our
desire for a safe, secure environment to live and work in.
Too often we get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we lose
sight of what's really important. We've seen the people in New York pull
together and know that for those who survived, their lives will never be
the same. The same is true for many of us.
A woman who worked in the Trade Center and survived was being
interviewed on television. She talked about how this experience had
changed the way she felt about her coworkers, and how eager she was to see
them all again. Another program showed the tearful reunion of coworkers
reuniting for the first time. Look at the people who surround you -- who
are these people you see everyday? Have you taken the time to get to know
them? If you were suddenly facing a life and death situation, which people
would you reach out and help, and which ones do you think would be there
to help you?
I realize we can't do much about the complex events taking place in
this world, but we can do something about our own worlds. We can be less
critical and more tolerant, less demanding and more appreciative, and we
can vow never to take for granted the people we see every day; the people
we work with, who surrounded us and provided a sense of comfort on
Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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