Loss is not something we talk about much in day-to-day life, let alone in the workplace. While we are progressing in the area, most people work in a culture where it is more challenging to process loss. This challenge is led by the “policy” of a three-day grief period, an awkward silence that permeates the office, or a void of someone’s competence.
Depending on the loss in the workplace, some people suffer longer than others and it’s important for managers or supervisors to allow this process to take place.
In the workplace, dealing with loss can vary from organization to organization. Part of what influences this is what the culture of the organization believes about loss, and what myths and realities are perpetuated within the organization’s culture. For example, the myth that you only need a certain amount of time to grieve perpetuates a silent culture, where the griever does not feel safe to talk about the loss in the workplace (or elsewhere). People grieve differently and the mourning process looks different as well. As a supervisor or manager, knowing that grief may be present can provide an understanding of different behaviors an employee display. Depending on the loss in the workplace, some people suffer longer than others and it’s important for managers or supervisors to allow this process to take place.
What can a manager or supervisor do? Here are some suggestions.
Depending on the loss, bringing in a grief counselor to work with the staff is an immense benefit. While some will be reluctant to talk with someone brought in by the “higher ups” (and depending on the culture of the organizations) providing resources for other grief counselors and assuring confidentiality goes a long way.
Have a memorial at work and invite others to say something about the deceased. There are resources to help with organizing this.
For individuals who are grieving personal losses, host a support group or provide resources for support groups in the area.
Provide access to grief counselors if people prefer individual sessions.Talk about the loss. Allow reflection and process about things that have gone unsaid or unfinished.
Just listen. Grief is a process and working through this process does not always mean “doing” something. Listening allows a griever another way to share the pain and empathy allows the griever to connect.
While loss is difficult to predict, it is helpful for the griever to know that the workplace is not immune to the loss and grief experiences. As a manager or supervisor, you can also be a part of a person’s healing process.
For more ideas and information about grief in the workplace, please check out my ebook: Grief and Loss in the Workplace, The Ryan Group