Regrettably, we live in a time where tragedy strikes somewhere in the world on a daily basis. While certainly not to be minimized, most of us have developed the ability to come to grips with the earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters that impact our lives as we rightly categorize these events as circumstances beyond anyone’s control. When a soldier loses his life in combat we mourn and grieve but it is still somehow easier to reconcile than an innocent civilian who is killed by an act of terror. As horrific as any loss of life is, crimes that are perpetrated by one civilian against another and include acts of violence (especially acts of violence committed against our youth) seem to fall into another category altogether. In today’s post, I’ll share my thoughts and observations on the shooting at Virginia Tech and how tragedies impact our lives…

The Virginia Tech massacre hit way too close to home…Both my children are in college and one of them attends the University of Virginia which is only about 150 miles from Virginia Tech. I was actually stationed in Virginia for a brief time when I was in the military and I have friends and colleagues who live in and around Blacksburg…needless to say today has taken an emotional toll on me. The reality is that few of us are prepared for tragedy when it strikes. We seem to regard it as something that happens to others, but certainly not to us. Given the state of affairs in today’s world, I think it is important for all of us to contemplate how we will deal with tragedy when it inevitably strikes.

It is not uncommon to find out about a tragic event while in the workplace. We gather with coworkers watching the news unfold on radios, televisions, and computer screens. We gather in groups to discuss the event and share information, theories, thoughts, perspectives, and emotions about what has taken place. We reach out in an attempt to understand how the tragedy is affecting our family, friends, and associates. It is regrettably during these times that we have a chance to get a glimpse of authenticity and transparency that we rarely see during the ordinary course of business.

The reality is that any public tragedy has a huge impact on the workplace. My personal belief is that it is incumbent upon organizations to assist their employees in successfully weathering a tragedy. Businesses can and should take reasonable and responsible steps to ease the stress and strain people experience during the tragedy. Companies should temporarily set aside the attitude of business as usual and help their employees deal with the helplessness and grief they experience during the tragedy. As a CEO or entrepreneur, this is an opportunity to display the courage and empathy of a true leader in putting the immediate needs of your employees above the normal operational needs of the enterprise.

The bottom line is that employers need to cut their employees some slack and let them process their emotions in a healthy fashion not only because it is the right thing to do, but because people will be able to recover more quickly and get back to productivity in a shorter period of time than if a tragedy is just treated as a non-event.

When tragedy slams into our lives, one of the last things we think about are how it all works together for our good. In a time such as this, we need to celebrate the positive impact that those who lost their lives have had on us, reach out to help those that have been directly or indirectly impacted, and use the information we’ve gleaned to do everything possible to prevent tragedies like this from occurring again. Let us not become desensitized, but let us become more sensitive…Please join me in praying for the friends and family of those who lost their lives yesterday.