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Date posted: 09th September 2022

09th September 2022

A Leaders Guide to Grief in the Workplace

A Leaders Guide to Grief in the Workplace

This morning we wake up as a nation in a collective state of grief following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Grief is a powerful emotional response that manifests in a myriad of ways – from denial to depression, anger to acceptance – we all cope differently.

In the workplace, remote or physical, business leaders have a responsibility to support the wellbeing and psychological safety of their people. And the need for emotional support is especially apparent in a time of grieving, such as today.

So, on this sad day, how can leaders recognise the needs of individual team members and support them as they come to terms with such great loss?

Find out in this article for North East Times Magazine by leading occupational health expert, Pete Mallon.

From the article:

The support individuals may need is far more complex, and much more tailored, than what people might imagine.

The standard HR policy, which allows the bereaved some immediate leave for their loss, is, at times, a very blunt instrument.

We are all different, and death affects individuals in a myriad of ways.

Some will seek to ignore the situation and keep on working, as if nothing has happened.

Others may break down completely, to a point where attendance at work becomes impossible.

There is no way of telling what will happen and, most importantly, there is no right or wrong answer.

This means organisations must develop a flexible approach, based very much around talking to the affected person or people.

We have found some people may actually need time away from a particular business many months after the sad event has happened, rather than in the immediate aftermath.

This is because grief has numerous stages, which do not have a set timeframe.

The stages are worth knowing, so you can understand how someone may be feeling.

Grief stages

  • Denial – After the death of a loved one, it’s not uncommon to be in denial about what has happened. This can help temporarily protect you from the overwhelming emotions that come with grieving
  • Anger – You may find you are angrier than normal, and direct your emotions at other people, including the person who died. It’s also possible to direct the anger toward yourself, other family members or the workplace
  • Bargaining – When you move out of denial and anger, you may find a period where you create a lot of ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ statements
  • Depression – This is often called the ‘quiet’ stage of the grieving process. You may experience overwhelming feelings of sadness or confusion. It’s common for your emotions to feel heavy during the depression stage, and you may want to isolate yourself from others
  • Acceptance – When you get to a point where you accept what has happened, and understand what it means in your life, you’ve reached the acceptance stage

This very difficult process for the bereaved needs to be understood and, quite frankly, can only be done by understanding their nature, their drivers and their attitude to the situation.

The discussion of death is often avoided, especially in Western cultures, and colleagues may struggle with knowing ‘what to say’ or rely on platitudes – neither helps the bereaved.

Indeed, avoidance can lead to a deeper level of grief, which makes working almost impossible.

If in doubt, simply recognise the situation – ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ – and, if appropriate, offer practical help or a ‘listening ear’ if the bereaved wants to talk.

Read the full article, here.

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