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What Women Want

We’re in a recession. That’s the phrase many of us have been hearing and reading over the last few weeks. Yep, it’s official. However, this news didn’t really come as a surprise to many Americans. As an HR professional for a global financial services company, this official statement did make me pause. Why? I knew those four words would resonate with our employees. While my company has been weathering the storm, as we prepare to enter 2009, the reality is that next year could bring a bigger challenge for us. What do we tell our employees?


As I walked along the blocks of the city and waited along the subway platforms with my fellow New Yorkers, I started to feel like Mel Gibson in the movie, What Women Want. The exception is that I was hearing from women and men alike — not what they were thinking — but what they were saying. At that moment, it was quite apparent that everyone around me was feeling the pain, feeling the uneasiness of our economic state. The hot topics discussed:


  • Did you hear about so and so who lost their job yesterday? I hope I’m not next.
  • Did you see in the paper that X, Y, Z company is announcing it will layoff thousands of people?
  • What do you think about the automotive industry, should the government help?
  • How is your 401(k) looking these days?
  • Will I have money to retire?


That same day, I was preparing for a townhall meeting at which time I would speak to a few hundred employees who report to me.  If I’m hearing those kinds of questions and remarks along the streets of New York, I could only imagine what our employees across the U.S. were thinking and saying. So, I jotted down three words that came to mind. As I read them over, I thought how simply stated the message would be, understanding that employees aren’t looking for a thesis on surviving our current times, but words of encouragement — words they could remember and act upon to get them through any situation.


  1. Awareness – understand that our environment is affecting everyone — not just you, so be mindful of what you say and what you do.
  2. Focus – concentrate on what you need to do to meet your objectives, avoiding distractions.
  3. Valuable – know what you uniquely bring to the table that gives you an edge. Once you know what that is, fine-tune it.


I’m looking forward to the challenges that 2009 will bring, and I’m hopeful that employees now have three words to live by and apply in their daily work lives.