Monday, June 8, 2015
How to handle grief at work
One woman, whose young husband died training for a marathon, asked that coworkers go on as usual--but then she felt shunted aside.
Workplaces are usually more formal--not so much hugging--yet people may want to cross that boundary in a time of tragedy.
If you have a loved one who has passed, go to your supervisor and give them the details or when you are leaving, when you will return (if you know), and the funeral. You do not need to email people--set up an autoreponse saying there has been a death.
HR will tell your team and coworkers. The company can make a donation or send appropriate flowers.
Don't post about it on social media right away--family members may not have been informed.
Companies should try to be flexible. Don't force people to use vacation days. Offices often give a short period for grief--4-5 days. That is not realistic.
Another situation can be a close relative with a terminal diagnosis. Again tell your boss and HR. In this case, you could say, "Here is who will be helping with my workload for a couple of months."
If you are just hearing about such a case, don't offer medical advice unless it's asked for.
But you can offer to help with the workload--ask if they need meals or child care. Some companies will even let workers give their own vacation time to a coworker in need.
And--when the person returns to the office after a death, say something, don't just ignore the event.
Sometimes people are so afraid of opening a flood gate or saying the wrong thing, they ignore the grieving person. Maybe you can leave a card on the person's desk.
After a time, many people want to work, want a distraction, they can't cry all the time.
So don't always pull a long face or be overly solicitous.
Time will ease things--but it does take time and sometimes a lot of it.