When you think of grief support- you most likely do not think of your workplace as a first thought. Organizations often are criticized for being a place with a lack of empathy- an environment that is most worried about productivity, coverage and less so about how an employee is actually doing. With the challenges we endured over the past 3 years due to coronavirus and social injustices, we are starting to see a shift in how we discuss support of this aspect of the human experience.
Grief is described in psychology as being the acute pain that accompanies loss. Grief is not only limited to the loss of people, it can also be felt following the loss of a pet, a change in home or family circumstances, such as a divorce or separation. It can also be felt as a result of changes and issues experienced in the workplace itself.
For every individual, grief can be experienced differently. For some, grief is short-term, termed as acute grief. Grief of this nature can however return unexpectedly at a later point. Yet, for other individuals, it’s possible to experience prolonged or extended grief. This prolonged sense of grief is also known as complicated grief, which can last months or even years (Graham, 2022).
For those in HR, it can be challenging to support both leadership and the front-line employee given the sensitive nature of the grief experience. Some steps to put in place can be:
Have a plan for supporting grief in the workplace – consider what level of training you will provide employee and managers on this topic. Do you have an Employee Assistance Program in place? Is there a certain leave that needs to be put in place?
Recognize and support the different stages of grief- if we think of Kubler-Ross’s model for grief, it is possible for people to experience the aspects of grief at different times and those stages do not have to happen in order.
Treat people with respect and as adults- empower managers with the flexibility to accommodate the needs of individuals with policies that can flex where appropriate and necessary. To the extent which is appropriate, allow individuals to take the time they need away from work.
Understand that work can be a vital part of the healing process- every individual experiences grief differently and how they process grief will be different.
Recently, I released So Now What- Harnessing Grief after Life’s Major Losses. When faced with the tragic loss, I am a firm believer we can find a path that strengthens us, utilizes our experiences, and continues a meaningful relationship with that person. With earned understanding, I offer a judgment-free, open-hearted, and fair-minded approach to living with and moving through grief- and it can be an excellent resource for those supporting a grieving individual or workplace.
Grief is a tricky subject – and HR can play a unique and critical role in supporting leaders and employees in the organization.
Graham, J. (2022). Five Meaningful Ways that HR Can Support Grief in the Workplace. Five Meaningful Ways That HR Can Support Grief in the Workplace - Sage HR Blog