Chapter 4: If you are a leader at work
Providing support in your workplace
I was in a management position but didn’t really know what to do about Seth’s death in terms of my team. It was really helpful to consult with a grief counsellor in our community, who suggested that I pull my staff together for a conversation about what would be helpful.
Your staff will look to you, as a leader, for guidance or direction after a co-worker has died. Keep in mind that everyone has their own way of grieving. What is helpful for one person may not be so for another, so it’s important that everyone feels free to choose from the support that is available.
Below are some considerations and suggestions. Click on each phrase to read more.
Acknowledge the death with your employees. Depending on the circumstances, it is generally best that they hear about it from you or other leaders, rather than through rumours or social media.
Each person’s response will vary, depending on a number of factors, including their experience with death and loss, their relationship with the person who died, and the circumstances of the death. For example, there will be additional impacts if the person died while at work, whether it was work-related or not.
If you have an Employee Assistance Program, it would be helpful to consult with them on how to honour the person who has died and provide support to your employees. If your workplace does not have an Employee Assistance Program, you might consult with a grief counsellor in your community. You might also provide your employees with a list of local support services available to them.
Write the person’s family a personal note, send a card that co-workers have signed, send flowers or food, or make a charitable donation on behalf of your business or organization. This will not only let the person’s family know you’re thinking of them, but also give your staff an opportunity to express their condolences.
Grief can affect the ability to concentrate and think clearly, which might impact work performance and safety. Depending on the circumstances, consider making accommodation for this in the short term. Showing kindness, compassion, and understanding will make a positive impact on employee loyalty and performance in the long run.
Don’t forget about your own grief response. Seek support for yourself from family, friends, your family physician, or a counsellor. Being a leader does not mean that you should show no emotion. On the contrary, many of your staff will appreciate it if you express your thoughts and feelings, and grieve along with them.