Business As Usual in the Face of Tragedy: Coping Tips for Your Employees and Yourself
The world is crazy right now. This week we’re all reeling from the largest mass shooting by a terrorist on American soil, and even if we didn’t know the victims personally, and even if we live 3,000 miles away from Orlando, it’s really hard not to be affected by this event or by one of the many recent tragedies that have shaken the sense of safety and well-being we expect to enjoy.
Our kids have questions. The news is bombarding us with updates. Social media is exploding with debates and we’re watching our friends engage in sometimes lively, usually passionate, and often destructive and disrespectful arguments over the hot topics of the day.
What does this have to do with your business? A LOT. You, your employees, or your partners may be feeling a little down. Or totally devastated. Certainly the overall mood of people in your community may be a bit blue. When people die senselessly—and so young!—we often consider our own mortality on some level. In just the past few months, we’ve also seen the deaths of truly beloved and influential artists: Prince and David Bowie, Mohammad Ali and Alan Rickman, Patty Duke and Garry Shandling and Harper Lee…and a few days ago 22-year-old Christina Gimmie, an up-and-coming young singer was murdered. Not a huge celebrity, but young. Oh so young–like many killed in the Orlando night club.
National tragedy, celebrity deaths, and loss of actual loved ones (for me it was two 44-year-old colleagues and a 22-year-old former student within a 3-week span) can make it hard to get things done.
You might have thoughts like, “What’s the point of working?” or “What I do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things?” OR YOU might not be feeling bad, but something tells you your employees are struggling. There’s a great line in the movie The Devil Wears Prada spoken by a young chef who says, “I spend my day making port wine reductions. I’m not exactly in the Peace Corp.” And this kind of thinking can cause us to neglect our businesses for a variety of reasons, including feeling like what we do is pointless, pedestrian, DUMB. A lack of motivation may be temporary or it could linger, so keep a close check on your feelings (and the feelings of your team members) and don’t step away from business for too long.
I’m not a grief counselor or a psychologist, but I AM a human being AND a business owner, and I know that life throws challenges at us all the time, and we have to adapt, roll with the punches, brush it off, whatever. Right this minute though, it seems like we’re collectively experiencing a lot of loss, so I thought an article like this might help a few people. Consider these suggestions and whether they might help you get back on track if you’re off right now.
- Stay off social media and turn off the news, or at least limit your exposure. It can be really depressing. Encourage your staff to do the same.
- Make an actual monetary donation to an organization or person who you feel is deserving of support. If you’re making a donation to a cause connected with a recent event, ask your staff if they’d like to participate.
- Ask your employees how they’re doing. Be specific. Ask if any of the recent events have been difficult for them and be accommodating if you can. (I lived in Boston on 9/11 and it turned out most of the people in my office personally knew someone who worked in the World Trade Center. I’m from California so I didn’t know anyone. I had to ask the right questions to the get the answers that would enable me to be sympathetic and supportive of my staff.)
- Remember why you do what you do. If you make the best pizza in town or you repair boats, you’re not solving the scary problems we’re facing. If you write social media posts or sell insurance, you’re not bringing anyone back from the dead. BUT whatever you do is something people need or want and THAT MATTERS. Whatever you do for a living, you are contributing to the comfort, safety, enjoyment, efficiency, productivity, intelligence, enlightenment, health, or happiness of others. And that’s all you need to do.
- Remember why you do what you do. AGAIN. But this time remember WHY you make money. To create a nice home for yourself and your family. To give to others. To enjoy this life and this world and all the amazing opportunities and adventures it offers. MONEY IS NOT THE END GAME. Money is a means for creating a valuable life and for enjoying experiences and helping others.
They say think global, act local. Start REALLY local–with yourself. And make sure your team is feeling good. If they aren’t, ask how you can help. Be compassionate while they deal with things that might be harder for them than they are for you. And be kind to yourself if you’re dealing with things and it’s harder for you than you thought it would be. And don’t forget to ask for help in sorting through your feelings, even if the person you talk to is a coach or counselor. Gone are the days when you need to just rub a little dirt on it. Get help if you need it so you can keep helping so many others, as I know you already do.