NO one is immune to grief. Grief is part of our lives and we must learn to deal with it. When people are hit with a tragic loss, donâ€™t believe that theyâ€™re leaving their personal lives at the door as they walk into office. Incapacitating diseases, separation, divorce or the death of a loved-one are among the most stressful events anyone can experience.
Time is demanded to process such events, and as much as some do not believe it, we canâ€™t just turn that processing on or off at will. Processing personal grief takes time, and it can take its toll, too. The person experiencing the grief is distracted, attention to detail can suffer, safe work practices can get ignored and emotions can run the entire spectrum from angry outbursts to total withdrawal.
Perhaps the most egregious error we can commit in the workplace is expecting someone whoâ€™s recently experienced loss to be â€œback to normalâ€ within a few days. Itâ€™s unrealistic and unreasonable. If itâ€™s not your loved one who passed away, two weeks after a funeral can seem like a long time. But to the person who experienced the loss, even a month later, â€œnormal lifeâ€ will probably still feel out of reach. Studies show that employees who were allowed to fully grieve are more likely to return to work sooner and concentrate better than those who lacked support.
For the most part, employees find support from the workplace. Co-workers and supervisors attend funerals, send flowers or cards, help with travel and other arrangements, reduce work loads, provide a good listening ear, collect cash, give a book on grieving, make phone calls, visit homes and provide time off. When grief enters the workplace, complications may arise because the demands of most businesses make it difficult to allow time for comforting and grief. One way of providing reasonable limits that protect the employer, yet give employees more flexibility, is allowing them to take sick or bereavement leave.
People who work together may become close like an extended family. Therefore, when a colleague dies or one is grieving death or a loss, the impact on his/her co-workers can be tremendous and can influence the workplace in a many ways. Unfortunately, most businesses cannot afford to halt production, sales or services to accommodate the grief response. Instead its â€œbusiness as usual.â€
Companies should, however, be patient with employees as they cope with a co-workerâ€™s death. Employers can also help by enlisting their human-resource managers to ensure that employeesâ€™ requests to help the deceasedâ€™s family are met. It is helpful for human resource managers to ensure that their companies have a plan in place to assist in responding effectively to a workplace death.
Included in this plan should be the use of critical incident stress debriefing for those employees who were directly or indirectly impacted by the death. It is also important to thank the employees and acknowledge the strain on the co-workers who are taking on additional workloads in such times.
Dealing with death