How do you get your employees to focus on work when the terrorist attacks of September 11th have changed us forever? How do you encourage people to be productive when their emotions are vacillating between rage, dismay, sympathy, hopelessness and revenge? It is not an easy task. The major challenge is to control what you can. You can control your reactions to this tragedy. If you have management authority, people are looking to you for your response. Here are some ways to restore peace and productivity to your workplace.
Give people time. This is a shock. They may need more frequent breaks. There will be a lull in productivity. More sick time may be used. Expect it.
Encourage employees to get help. If you have an Employee’s Assistance Program (EAP) or counseling services, encourage people to use them. Some of your employees may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Others may need to deal with co-workers, clients, patients or family members who are suffering from mental problems related to this trauma. Refer your employees to professionals that are trained to help them get through these types of situations. With the depression linked to graphic scenes, you may also want to consider limiting TV watching to lunch & break times.
To the extent possible stop the gossip and speculation. People will need to talk and there is a need for information. However, too much time spent talking about the need for revenge and retribution is not productive. Remind employees that there are top people in charge of making those difficult decisions who are working on the proper response.
Do not let employees bully others. You have a duty to keep the workplace safe and free from discrimination. Problems are only increased if you allow your workforce to treat others differently based on factors such as race, national origin or religion. This might be a good time to circulate your policy on treating others with respect and not discriminating against co-workers, suppliers or customers.
Consider bringing in outside help. If your work environment seems to be suffering, you may want to bring in a stress management counselor. If productivity is low, you may want to hire a facilitator to help people focus on what these acts of war means to your business right now and what you are going to need to think about for the future.
Have a cause that people can rally behind. Consider sponsoring a clothing drive, donating blood, raising money, write encouraging cards to workers. One hotel brought cookies to airline personnel stranded in the city. Another is making posters for their New York office.
There is good news. You just may have to listen and look harder for it. One radio station reported on the architectural abilities of the engineers of the World Trade Centers. Instead of concentrating on the lives that were lost during the collapses, the reporter marveled at the strength of the structures & the length of time they withstood the crashes to allow so many to be evacuated.
Sing the praises of your own hometown heroes. There are people who are doing amazing things around you to support both the areas affected by tragedy and to keep business going as usual. Notice and appreciate those folks. Those employees who continue doing a good job, even during this chaotic time, deserved to be recognized.
Try to turn the attention to the good that is being done. There is a renewed patriotism felt throughout our land. Our own leaders have put aside political differences to support the president’s efforts. Communities are pulling together and are helping people they have never met. There is a resurgence of faith and people of different religions are supporting the relief efforts. Countries are pledging their support to the United States.
Remember that ceasing business is what the enemy wants. Our nation received a wake up call. People do not want the United States to continue its economic success. Remind your employees that shutting down business is a form of retreat. One of the best ways to honor the victims, the medical providers, the rescue teams, and our supporters is to pull together and be productive. American workers have received the call. We need to answer that call by getting back to work.
Linda Swindling is an author, attorney and mediator who works with executives and professionals to create better working environments, avoid lawsuits and improve negotiations. For more information go to www.lindaswindling.com or contact Linda at (972) 416-3652 or (877) 800-5023 toll free. In addition, there is a wealth of information, including crisis communication, leave policies and how this may affect your efforts regarding diversity and preventing discrimination at the Society of Human Resources Management website: shrm.org.