11 Sep 9/11 and Our “Workplace Family”
Although more than a decade has passed, today marks a day of national mourning. As well as the lingering sense of loss and grief, I always think about the families torn apart so abruptly and unexpectedly on that day.
Some of the relationships ended by this tragedy included the destruction of the office “families” of those who died in the attack or its aftermath. For example, Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., a financial services firm lost two-thirds of its workforce that morning. It’s sobering to think of the impact such a loss would have on a workplace. Even those who were not in the World Trade Center buildings at the time lost their office families after their workplaces were destroyed and, in some cases, their company.
We often take our co-workers for granted, but this day reminds me to appreciate anew the people I am lucky to spend so much time with. We’ve supported each other during our life events including births, deaths, life-threatening illnesses, marriages, and divorces. Recently, my mother passed after several years of my role as her caretaker. My NRI family was there to fill in for me, especially in my crisis moments. So many of our “families” at work are there when we really need them – when the last thing you need is to worry about is your job.
And we spend an extraordinary amount of time with the people we work with. When you think about it, the time you spend at home during a regular week is minimal; maybe an hour or two in the morning to wake up and get ready before you rush out the door for work. And when you get home, you only have a couple hours to enjoy the company of your family before you are off to bed again.
Like most people, in the course of a normal workday you spend more time with your co-workers than you do with the people you live with. Work, for most of us, is a second “home”.
It makes sense to put a lot of importance in the relationship we have with our “office family” because we have to spend the vast majority of our days with them. They are some of the first people you see in the morning and some of the last people you see in the evening.
We’re usually cautioned not to allow emotion to influence our relationships in the workplace. But perhaps we should.
Think about it this way: at home, we strive to treat our children and spouses with love, patience, and consideration. Doing so not only makes family life less stressful and more harmonious, pleasant, and fun, it also makes us feel good about ourselves.
Nobody needs more stress in their life. And we certainly don’t want more stress on the job. So when I find myself in a rough interaction in the office I try to respond with the same kind of emotional caring that I try to extend to my actual family. I try to extend patience and caring and seek a resolution as quickly as possible before things spiral downhill.
(Full disclaimer: I don’t always succeed in being a nicer, more caring person. But that’s another column, for another day.)
Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this date marks a day that changed our nation forever. So many stories emerged of heroism and sacrifice shown by ordinary people to others with whom their connection was only that they worked in the same department or company. So many stories of courage and caring and love.
It shouldn’t take a tragedy to get us to see our co-workers as fellow humans deserving of our patience, respect, and love. Let today remind us to appreciate the family we’re blessed with, at home and at work.