It’s Bigger Than Just an “Office” – Thoughts on Colleague Relationships on the Anniversary of 9/11

Posted September 11, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

It’s often debated whether having “friends at work” is good or bad. I’ve always had the opinion that being friends with your coworkers made life better and your work life more fun. On the other hand, I have friends who have strict “no friends” policies at work. Of course, they’re friendly with coworkers, but when five o’clock comes, that relationship ends. Since leaving my last job  to launch Career Girl, I’ve questioned my policy on friends at work. In fact, leaving the consulting company I worked for previously, I was shocked to find that some of the relationships I thought were strong could not withstand me leaving the company. As a consequence, my feelings were hurt, and I vowed never again to develop those kinds of work friendships. This weekend, though, a documentary about 9/11 changed my mind.

Today is the anniversary of the largest terrorist attack against the United States in history. And as we all look back on that day, we certainly remember where we were, what we were doing, and how our hearts went out to all of the individuals who lost their lives and were affected by 9/11.

We remember, often, when talking about 9/11, the bravery of the first responders and the voices of those who so eloquently called loved ones to say goodbye. We remember those who perished and the heroes. But something triggered in me last night watching one of the many documentaries that will air this week – at their core, whether these individuals were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, they were also coworkers. That day, these individuals went through this horrible ordeal not with their wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, they went through this ordeal with their coworkers. And I can’t help but believe that in those tense moments and fearful discussions, these groups weren’t just coworkers. They were friends.

There are countless courageous stories of ordinary coworkers who were heroes that day. Here are a few I’ve heard this week on television and anecdotally.

  • Two male coworkers, rather than descending down the World Trade Center stairs with their office mates decide to comb through multiple floors looking for others. In their heroism, they save over 100 people, but lose their lives.
  • Three coworkers slow their own walk down the stairwells to aid an elderly secretary from their office who had asthma. Without regard for their own lives, they simply couldn’t imagine leaving the building without her.
  • The three firefighters who famously hung the flag on the site of the World Trade Center. Did they stay to be photographed? No. They immediately returned to the burning site to look for survivors.

These are just a few instances of coworkers who became so much more to one another than that on 9/11. And while we remember the anniversary today, I certainly pray you’ll never endure a tragic incident like this one (or anything else for that matter) with your coworkers. At the same time, though, it’s worth a few minutes of thought about whether or not you should let your coworkers in to be your friends. They may just be the ones you’ll turn to in a time of need, large or small.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."