Dealing With a Death in the Workplace
With the number of hours that we spend at work, strong personal bonds form within groups and friendships flourish. When a colleague dies, the impact on the team can be huge and the workplace is likely to be affected for a time in a variety of ways. If the death is unexpected, violent or due to suicide, the shock can be traumatising for people. Managing a team or running a company, you will need to be able to advise and respond to colleagues, clients and other stakeholders; keep the business going as well deal with the practical issues of losing a colleague. Considering coaching whilst dealing with illness or death in the workplace would be supportive for you whilst you negotiate our way through a sensitive situation whilst also managing your own response to the loss.
When You Are Managing a Team and a Colleague Dies
People respond to shock and grief differently. Some will let their work distract them and carry on pretty much as normal, some will find it difficult to even be at work…..and a whole range in between. It is reasonable to think though that it won’t be ‘business as usual’ for a period of time. Here are a few things you might want to take into consideration when a member of your company dies:
- The emotional environment will change for a time
- Expect performance and productivity to be affected
- Expect people to have shock and grief response: sleeping, eating, anxiety, concentration, memory lapses, anger, depression are some
- If the death has been violent, expect a greater reaction
- Not everyone is comfortable with grief and may feel and seem awkward with it
- Some will need to talk about their colleague for some time after the event
- Grieving will vary in intensity and length of time
- Some may need time off/flexible working
- Bringing in outside counselling support
- Communicating sensitively – letting people know as you learn more
- Expect anyone in the company to go to the funeral
- One death reminds us of all the others – expect old memories of grief to be triggered
Everyone has their own response to death and it’s important to note that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Coaching for When Someone in Your Team Dies
Your own resources are likely to be stretched at this turbulent time: as well as managing the fallout professionally, you too will be dealing with loss. Coaching through this period would give you some much needed space and someone with whom to confidentially discuss how to keep everything going at work. Your resilience, patience, lack of judgement and understanding will be required at this critical time and how you respond to your team will be crucial.
Using an integrated approach of coaching and psychotherapy, these are some of the things we might consider:
Processing your own grief; considering practical matters for the team/company; your role in acknowledging the impact of the death; how the company might respond to the partner or family of the deceased; the most suitable methods of support for the team; bringing in outside help; keeping the morale of the team going; looking at how the team/company might honour the person who has died and more.