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Acknowledging Tragedies in the Workplace Thoughtfully

Acknowledging Tragedies in The Workplace Thoughtfully
While we can’t escape the inevitable, we can help each other through tragedy during difficult times.

We all crave connection, happiness and success; in life and at work! But what happens when tragedy hits? In the workplace, we often spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our own families. It is inevitable that we form relationships with one another, and sometimes even become friends for life. By default, we learn about our peers’ families, lives and hardships.

During this pandemic, we have seen a range of sad events in the world and within our communities. Nobody is exempt from being adversely affected by illness, financial turmoil, and even death caused by COVID-19. Additionally, life still throws everyday curve balls our way outside of the virus. While we can’t escape the inevitable, we can help our teams to work through tragedy and provide support during difficult times. Here are some examples of how to give a workplace hug to your employees, co-workers, and even bosses.

When There Is a Death in the Family

If you know that an employee has experienced loss, reach out to let them know that you have heard about it. If they share it with you directly, offer your condolences right away. Ask if there is anything you can do to help, and leave the door open for the future if they decline. Following through with food for the family, flowers for a funeral, a self-care gift basket, or a gift card for groceries is much appreciated. Sometimes people don’t know how much they need something like this until it is received. Be available and lean on your HR department to offer resources for emotional support for employees struggling with loss.

News of a Life Changing or Terminal Illness

Sometimes, an employee has to share bad news, and when the news is that a loved one or they personally are terminally ill, it can be overwhelming. Do your best to listen, wait for them to tell you what they are comfortable telling you, and consider the options you have as an employer. There are local benefits that will help to support your employee, but outside of the black and white of the law, there is an important human touch to this. Extend an open door policy and reach out to colleagues or your HR department to help you make the best choices. Stay in touch. In the case of a leave of absence, be sure that you are swift to take care of important paperwork that could otherwise hold up the process for them to take advantage of potential benefits and assistance.

During a Breakup

Let’s face it, it happens to the best of us! Is this a tragedy? It sure can be. Employees sometimes struggle through a divorce, moving out of their home with a long term partner, or ending an engagement. These are life changing events that can really affect job performance, attendance and general morale. What can you do in these situations? Offer curiosity instead of assumptions. In the case of low performance or mood change, ask if everything is okay and offer your support. Remember that everyone handles stress differently and sometimes employees prefer to work more through their personal challenges. While some thrive, others may struggle to “show up” 100%, and that’s okay. We deal with a range of guests, and a range of personalities within our team. Keep an open dialogue with your team and be open to adjustments and reasonable accommodation.

Death of an Employee

Even the most experienced leaders and business owners are taken aback by the death of an employee or coworker. This is a traumatic event, and though we must carry on, the death of someone you worked closely with and cared very much about can have a lasting effect on one’s thoughts. Today, companies start GoFundMe accounts, raise funds for families, create scholarships in the deceased’s name, and cover funeral costs amongst other thoughtful things. There is no one way to treat the death of a current or former employee or colleague. Some of the most powerful actions we have experienced in our careers involve the people who came to love and appreciate the person who has passed. In an effort to celebrate the life of a former colleague, it is important to come together and remember all the special moments one experienced with and because of them. Take a moment to honor them, send some money or goodies to their family, and appreciate one another in their memory. In our line of work, we have learned that human connection is so important.

For any given tragic event, remember that however uncomfortable, good can come from the way we respond to it. However busy your business is, take the time to devote care and thought to your employee/ coworker/ team/ self. Honor your business by honoring your people.

At LA Consulting, we support leaders through the highs and lows of the employee life cycle. How can we support you? Schedule an info call below, we would love to learn more.


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