Dealing with Grief in the Workplace

Posted on March 26, 2007

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The HR Web Cafe blog has some great guidance on dealing with grief and loss in the workplace.  Here are a few tips:

  • Make contact with your bereaved employee as soon as possible after you learn of their loss. Offer your condolences. Listen and respect confidentiality. Expect sadness and tears.
  • Be prepared. Know your organization’s policy on bereavement and personal time and be ready to explain the policy to the employee.
  • Be as flexible and negotiable as possible in allowing your employee to have the time and space to deal with their loss.
  • Arrange for back-ups and replacements necessary to cover the person’s work during their absence. Ensure that phone calls and e-mail messages are re-directed.
  • Get information on services, funerals and memorials to the person’s colleagues in a timely fashion.
  • If appropriate, help to organize some form of group acknowledgment to support the employee, such as issuing a card or flowers, or planning group attendance at a memorial ceremony.
  • Ensure that support continues when the person returns to work. The first few days may be particularly difficult adjustment.
  • Have back-ups or a buddy system in place when the employee returns to work to provide support and check in with the employee periodically to see how he or she is doing.
  • Consider adjusting the workload. Expect productivity, but be patient and reasonable in your expectations.
  • Be sensitive to the cycle of upcoming holidays or trigger points that might be difficult for the employee.
  • Recognize that other cultures may have customs, rituals or ways of dealing with loss that differ from those to which we are accustomed.
  • Watch for warning signs of prolonged grief and ongoing performance issues, such as poor grooming, severe withdrawal, substance abuse, or other uncharacteristic behaviors might be warning signs.
  • Offer resources for professional help. As a manager, you are in a unique position to observe a need for help and to recommend assistance through a referral to your EAP or appropriate community resources.

Read more at HR Web Cafe: Grief in the Workplace: Tips for Supervisors

N. DeWayne Pope, DeWayne Pope LLC

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