Forgotten Work Life Lessons From 9/11

It’s been over a decade, but even the smallest details of that horrific day are forever seared in my mind. The weather was beautiful, and, like most of our cherished victims, I was at work, going about my business without a care in the world. My accountant was the first to break the news, and the rest was, quite literally, history. The office television was broadcasting what looked like open warfare in the heart of Manhattan as my staff and I watched, holding our breath.



On the upside, being hit hard forced us to take a step back, realize what really matters, and experience a few moments of true clarity. And my world of employment was no exception. As the numbers of the deceased continued to skyrocket, I began receiving calls from clients, candidates, relatives, and friends from all over the world. Because we share the same state, many out-of-towners didn’t realize that Buffalo was a solid 8-hour drive from the Big Apple. With a catastrophic loss of roughly 3,000 civilians, the conversations began on how that day would forever change the way we approach the work world. Our phones were flooded with messages from both job seekers and working professionals alike who were determined to take a good long look at their careers. And employers pledged that, from that point on, they were going to treat their employees differently – promises about more vacation time and achieving a better work-life balance. It was a time of reflection. In the end, however, the follow through left something to be desired.

Instead of enacting change, many employers maintained their fear-based management style as a misguided effort to retain their staff members. The problem was that fear is an unhealthy workforce motivator, and its presence tends to be more destructive than positive. That coupled with the overhyped recession has caused many people to stay in positions they hate out of fear that they won’t find anything better. The result has been growing numbers of disengaged workers (about 70 percent of America, according to Gallup), overwhelming stress levels leading to excessive time off, reductions in employee production and efficiency, and excessive turnover rates.

As we keep the victims of 9/11, both the deceased and the survivors, in our thoughts and prayers today, it’s my hope that we also take some time to think about how we can take those pure intentions we had 13 years ago and ask ourselves: Is there more we can be doing in our professional careers to make the work world a better place?

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