Q: I work in San Francisco, in a satellite office of a big New York
agency. The recent incidents in New York and Washington, DC, were so
awful, and made me feel completely helpless. No one in our firm was
injured or, thankfully, killed, but my colleagues in New York are really
shattered, and I don't know how to help them deal with it all. What can
I do to show my support?
Ms. T, Los Angeles
A: There is no easy answer to your question. On the one hand, the tragic
events in New York and Washington, DC on September 11 were national
tragedies, and all of us across the country grieve for the meaningless
loss of life, and are equally apprehensive about the impact this will
have on the future of the country. The victims included people from all
over the US and around the world, and no community is completely
untouched by the devastation.
On the other hand, those in New York and Washington, DC (and outside of
Pittsburgh, as well) are coping directly with the day-to-day realities
of the terrorist attacks. The tone of their daily lives has changed, in
small and large ways. They will be unable to avoid thinking about these
events for a long time, because the reminders will constantly surround
The most helpful thing you can do right now is be flexible and extremely
understanding as your colleagues adjust and cope with their feelings.
Volunteer to help out with some of the mundane tasks that need to be
done and look for ways to take some of the day-to-day burden from their
shoulders for a while. Be flexible about things like meeting times and
deadlines whenever possible. Remember to ask them how they are feeling,
how their families are, and find out if there is anything that they
Remember, too, that hard work can be extremely therapeutic, and some of
your co-workers will want to throw themselves into the task at hand.
They may not be inclined to reflect too much on the tragedies. Be
respectful of their need to focus on other things, and remember that the
little things you do will show them how much you care.
Q: Our boutique IR firm is pretty close to the World Trade Center site
and several of our staff members were out on pitches and client meetings
when the airplanes hit. Our office was evacuated, and for several hours
afterwards, we were frantically trying to locate everyone.
Unfortunately, the only company directory with home and cell phone
numbers was in our office.
We finally managed to track everyone down, but it took longer than it
might have if we'd had a copy of everyone's contact details handy. I
think it is a good idea for companies to keep several directories at
people's homes and possibly an attorney's office, in case of emergency.
I wish we had thought of it.
Mr. B, New York
A: Thank you for reminding us all of how important it is to keep
up-to-date records of everyone in the office, and to have back-up lists
in alternate locations. You never realize how important these small
administrative resources are until you need them. Another good idea is
to set up a "buddy system" so everyone in the firm keeps a few home and
cell phone numbers of colleagues to contact if an emergency occurs. I
have a feeling that many companies will be reviewing their procedures
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