This article outlines some practical strategies for dealing with grief in the workplace. What is important to note is that there are strategies for leaders/managers, as well as for employees. This is important because, within the context of the workplace environment, grief can have varying effects on one’s ability to contribute to the workplace depending on whether you are in a leadership/managerial position or an employee.

Strategies for leaders/managers:

  1. Acknowledge the emotional impact of grief/loss. Many leaders assume that, as a leader, you should not show emotion, especially in front of your employees/colleagues. This is unhealthy as it causes you to suppress, rather than acknowledge, your grief. Any emotional suppression usually results in those feelings manifesting in other ways, often unexpectedly, and even unhealthily. This can have an even greater negative impact for leaders, specifically because they are in a leadership position. It is thus best to acknowledge your grief, especially as a leader, because that will also encourage your colleagues, and employees, to do the same.
  2. Accept the well-meaning intentions of colleagues. In the workplace, it is often awkward for colleagues to communicate their support or sympathies. Thus, however awkward such communication may sound, accept it as well-intentioned. We all know that when you are experiencing grief, there is little that anyone else can say to alleviate the emotional pain associated with grief. Thus, rather than expecting others to know exactly what to say to make you feel better, accept the words of sympathy from colleagues as well-intentioned.
  3. Seek out the necessary resources for help. Another false assumption that many leaders have is that they should not seek help when necessary. A leader is not superhuman and, like any other human being, also needs help from time to time. When dealing with grief, it is vital that leaders seek out the necessary resources they need to help them cope.

Strategies for employees

  1. Communicate your loss to your line manager as early as possible. Most workplaces have support structures in place to assist employees with psychological and emotional issues. It is therefore important to communicate with your line manager if you are experiencing grief so that he/she can advise you on what support structures are in place that can assist you.
  2. Take the necessary time off. Related to the previous point, it may be necessary to take some time off work to deal with your grief. Most workplaces have policies in place that enable employees to take time off to deal with grief. Though this varies from one workplace to the next, these policies are there specifically to help employees to deal with grief. However, you must communicate with your line manager so that the necessary planning can be done, and so that you can have the support of your line manager when applying for the special leave.
  3. Seek out the necessary resources for support. This strategy is the same as that for leaders/managers. Use the resources and support structures within the work environment to help you to deal with grief. The more support structures and resources you can access, the better equipped you will be to cope.

While these are by no means all of the possible strategies leaders and employees can use to deal with grief in the workplace, they are some of the most effective. Hopefully these strategies will help you as a leader or employee who may be experiencing grief right now.

Prof Theodore Petrus

Business Coach for Female Business Owners

Academic Coach for Non-Academic Working Professionals

Executive and Leadership Coach

Personal, Academic and Business Success Speaker

Phone/WhatsApp/Skype: +27 722 843 156


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