The week@work: terror on the way to work, a factory fire anniversary, values-based leadership@Starbucks, a millennial workplace, & a new job benefit


How do you share work thoughts when so many were killed and injured on their way to work on Tuesday morning? Apparently, we go on. I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by writer Pamela Druckerman in today’s New York Times ‘Je Suis Sick of This’.

“To Europeans, Brussels was supposed to be a dull place that you didn’t have to think much about until you had to change planes there. There’s a parlor game in which you stump people by asking them to name 10 famous Belgians. “Brussels, the anti-fanatic attacked by the fanatics,” French journalist Laurent Joffrin wrote in Wednesday’s Libération. “Brussels, a cousin whom one is content to know is there.”

Right after an attack it’s easy to say that everything feels different. People are horrified. Parents keep their kids home from school. Newspapers run headlines like “Europe at War.” There is the sad, familiar search for a slogan: This time, I prefer the Belgian frites arranged to make a rude gesture resembling a finger, and the banner reading, “Je suis sick of this” followed by an expletive.”

We don’t stop working. Maybe we are a bit more vigilant, the slogan ‘If you see something, say something’, temporarily gets more attention.

Journalist Druckerman continued, “Despite the inevitable false positives, it’s hard not to be on guard. I’m constantly making a series of mundane existential calculations: Is it worth it to risk going to a movie? Should I let my kids ride the metro to soccer practice? Daily life has a chiaroscuro quality: One minute you’re riding a bus and enjoying a view of the river; the next you’re wondering about the fellow with an unusually large backpack.”

There were other stories this week@work.

Friday was the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It resonates with workers today because it was a story of immigrant workers, and led to changes in U.S. factory regulations and safety.

triangle fire.jpeg

Joseph Berger summarized the events in a 2011 article.

“A block east of Washington Square, not far from the neighborhood’s boutiques and chic restaurants, was the site of one of the nation’s worst industrial disasters. Many New Yorkers might be unaware of this.

Some labor advocates are trying hard to change that. They have organized an effort to build a memorial to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 workers died. Most of them were young immigrant women from Eastern Europe and Italy, and more than 50 jumped to their deaths from the factory’s ninth floor.

Two years ago, Tom Marshall posed the question, “Can disasters make life better for future generations?”  He went on to draw a parallel between the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and the 2013 garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“In both cases, inspectors visited and filed critical safety reports, but scores of people still died while making clothes for others. The American disaster is now hailed as a turning point that led to safer workplaces and broad support for a minimum standard of workers’ rights, while the Bangladeshi disaster’s impact is less certain.”

This week@work Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz spoke at the annual shareholders meeting, and expanded on a conversation begun two years ago on the role and responsibility of a for-profit corporation. “What is the role and responsibility of all of us, as citizens?”


“Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”

He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.”

“It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said. “This is about the choices we make every day.”

One of the ‘most read’ articles last week, ‘What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?’, provided one more illustration that work issues are people issues, and it really doesn’t matter how you generationally identify.

“Joel Pavelski, 27, isn’t the first person who has lied to his boss to scam some time off work.

But inventing a friend’s funeral, when in fact he was building a treehouse — then blogging and tweeting about it to be sure everyone at the office noticed? That feels new.

Such was a recent management challenge at Mic, a five-year-old website in New York that is vying to become a leading news source created by and for millennials.”

The workplace is changing and the 80 million millennials @work will make a significant impact on work/life and the global economy. As a group, the 40 million with college degrees enter the workforce taxed with student loans that are the equivalent of a mortgage. Fidelity Investments announced a new employee benefit last week to address student loan repayment.  Tara Siegel Bernard provided the details.

“Fidelity will apply up to $2,000 annually to the principal of its employees’ student debts.

Fidelity is one of the more prominent employers to announce the student loan repayment benefit in recent months, a policy that seems likely to gain traction. The benefit helps address what some employers describe as a challenge attracting and retaining younger workers, many of whom can’t see beyond the burden of their student debt. Most employers that are offering the new perk also cap their costs at, say, $10,000 total per employee.”

At the end of a difficult week, spring wishes and Happy Easter!









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