Among the many things a leader has to deal with, the death of an employee hits the hardest. This is true regardless of whether the death was a tragic accident or the result of ongoing health complications. In either case, this issue requires nuanced, careful handling.
One of the most noticeable things about the death of an employee is that there’s often a discomfort that surrounds grief. In these situations, even the most well-intentioned people may not be quite sure what to say. This can lead to employees feeling even more alone during this trying time. Here are some ways you can make the mourning process easier to deal with.
Reach Out to Your Team
We all react to grief in different ways, so you may see some unexpected emotions arise in the workplace. Keep that in mind and let your team know about support services available to them. You can also reach out to them individually and let them know that they can talk to you. Pay particular attention to staff members whose behavior or mood has changed dramatically.
The family of the deceased may like to learn that he or she is being missed in the workplace. Consider gathering condolence cards from your team and sending them to the family. Physical gestures may also be appreciated. For example, making a donation in the memory of the deceased sends a simple but powerful message.
Be Open With Information
Your employees will likely have many concerns and questions about the situation of the deceased. They may also inquire about the memorial service and the impact on work logistics. By being forthcoming without overstepping professional boundaries, you can help your employees come to terms with the loss.
Another way to help your team process grief is to come up with a group response to honor the memory of the deceased. Choose something that respects your employees’ wishes to process their emotions differently and allows for different participation levels. Here are some ideas:
- Hold a workplace event such as a reception or luncheon in honor of the deceased
- Create a memorial bulletin board with important photos and images
- Hold a fundraiser in memory of the deceased to make a charitable donation
- Design a memory book filled with contributions from employees to give to the family
Hopefully, you won’t ever be in a situation where you must manage your team through the death of their coworker. If you do, keep these tips in mind, be sensitive in your approach, and remind your staff that your door is always open.