Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult and sometimes takes a long time. Work becomes an escape in most cases, but what if the loved one was a colleague? Every time you go back to the office, the spaces and the time you shared with him/her will all come back in a blink. In such cases, the workplace can act as a great community to share and grieve with.
As a leader, managing grief must be well-understood as it poses a delicate situation, which is tricky to handle.
It is important to acknowledge this loss internally and externally. Let your business associates or clients know about the situation. So that they are aware of the kind of environment, the company is working under. Internally, be open about openly expressing or sharing the loss. People should not mourn behind closed doors and allow the office space to open up and embrace mourning. Remote employees can connect through video conference and share their feelings too.
People have different mental bandwidth to deal with grief. Some take a couple of hours, some take a few days or weeks. Give them the time they need. The productivity will dip, but let it. Host a grieving counsellor who will help in the healing process. Let them know, you are available and open to talk to them whenever they want. Talking will help lighten the burden and clear their head.
Sometimes you may find, those people who did not know the deceased well are grieving as much as those who knew him/her. This may seem odd, but different people are impacted differently. Even the smallest of interactions is enough for some people to mourn and they too may need some time off. Avoid judging their relationship or their feelings.
Connect with the families of the deceased. Many times the families are not aware of the relationship their loved one shared with colleagues. Their visit to the office will introduce them an unknown side of him/her. The colleagues share stories and ask the family about how he/she was as a kid or at home. It is a win-win for both the parties. It helps them mourn and reminisce together, which lets them know that they are not alone in the loss. Apart from formal memorial services, informal conversations and meetings like these will help not only to remember but, celebrate the deceased.
Don’t hold back and allow yourself to grieve with your employees or colleagues. It is a hard time for everyone, even for you. As leaders, this will help you lead them through this adversity and keep them calm.
Such events, though very tragic in nature, give people an opportunity to bond with each other, grieve together and grow together. They come together and celebrate their colleague’s life and his/her contribution to the company and even unite in many ways to take that contribution forward so that his/her memory lives on.