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The Importance of Supporting a Grieving Employee

 
Supporting a Grieving Employee


During your career, there’s a very real chance that you’ll encounter a grieving employee. Since few of us have the luxury of taking an extended leave, a significant part of the grieving process will take place at work. 

Though most of us try to check our personal troubles at the door when we enter the workplace, grief isn’t an emotion that can be so easily regulated. No matter how much work has piled up or how many deadlines you’re going to miss, you will have to accommodate your employee’s needs. Simply telling him or her to “move on” or “cheer up” is likely to leave them even more upset and even antagonized. 

Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the situation, such as an emotionally unstable team member, a depressed mood, or lower productivity, focus on the positive aspects. This is the perfect opportunity to show your grieving employee, as well as other team members, that they are valued by you and the company. By respecting what he or she is going through and creating a supportive environment, they are likely to become more engaged with the company. In addition, supporting employees in this way will enhance your employer brand by demonstrating that you don’t take your people for granted but instead, care deeply about their wellbeing.

Support strategies
Not all people need the same kind of support when they’re grieving, so not all of the following strategies will apply in each instance of a loss. Use only those that make sense for the individual situation.

  • Stay in touch. According to Washington State Human Resources in the article “Supporting a Grieving Employee,” even if a co-worker is closer to the employee, you need to stay in touch as well. Express your condolences and ask if there’s any way you can help. If the employee is worried about taking time off, inform her how many days the company allows in this kind of situation and reassure her that you can always discuss coming back to work later.

  • Offer to inform the team. Most people want their supervisor to inform their colleagues, but the extent of the details they want to share can vary. Make sure you’re clear on this point.

  • Express your condolences as a team. Depending on the employee’s wishes, you should all get together to send a card or flowers, and/or attend the funeral.

  • Find out if practical support is needed. In the event a spouse or partner has passed away, or a child, the employee might find it very difficult to function. Check in with him about this. If he needs support, see if your team can help with picking up groceries, dog walking, or babysitting. If more structural support is needed, ask the employee if he’d like to be referred to social services or an alternative private company.

  • Be accommodating at work. Whether it’s shorter hours, telecommuting, or a quieter office, find out if your employee needs to adjust her work environment for a while until she’s feeling stronger.

  • If the grief affects performance for too long, discuss the options. It can take a very long time for people to get over a loss, and this can affect work performance. If it becomes a long-term issue, have a conversation with the employee and suggest he seek help via a counselor or grief therapist.

Supporting a grieving employee can be difficult, yet it’s important. Keep the above tips in mind and if you need further assistance, discuss the situation with your HR department.


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