CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

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

right away.

- Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try

Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@

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