How to Support an Employee Coping with a Loss in the Family

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Coping with the loss of a loved one is terribly hard. There are so many moving parts that one has to navigate, and your job is a part of that equation. As an employer, there will be instances where an unfortunate circumstance falls on the shoulders of one of your employees.  Immediate supervisors can lend a hand in helping a grieving employee through their tough time. Here are a few ways leaders can support an employee coping with a loss in the family, or really, any loved one.

Be a resource

Your team member is going to need some time off. How much time off they receive is dependent upon your bereavement/PTO policy. While there are getting their personal life sorted, partner with your HR department and gather the necessary information your employee will need, such as amount of PTO accrued and documents for a leave of absence, among others. Chances are they have to deal with the details of a funeral or service, so by providing them the information, you’ve saved them from having to complete an additional task.

Be a leader

Knowing that an employee will be out of the office is only half of the equation. The other is to ensure that their workload is covered for the duration of their leave. Delegate assignments amongst the rest of your team and if time permits, roll up your sleeves and help out a bit. It shows that everyone is on board with supporting his or her coworker in need. Plus, your employee won’t have to worry about being overwhelmed with a pile of work when they return.

Be supportive

Prior to their return, talk with your team in regards to how they communicate with their grieving coworker. Respect of boundaries is critical in this trying time, and sensitivity may not be a strong trait for everyone. Be sure to steer clear of any intrusive/blunt questions. and allow them to focus on their work, as it will probably be a welcomed distraction from the tragedy they endured. In any case, this will be the time where you will rally behind your core culture to step in and support your employee to the best of your ability.

The death of a loved one is a difficult and sensitive time for those who have gone through it. In addition to having to say goodbye to someone they care about, the employee has to keep navigating the various parts of their life. Though you can’t change the outcome, you can make the transition back to work as painless as possible by being proactive and getting support for the rest of your team. You’ll establish a caring culture while being there for your people when they need you the most.

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