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Best Practices for Leaders and Allies Supporting Others through Grief

I talked to a client, distraught about her Director’s actions toward an employee whose son had recently killed himself in front of her. The Director asked the employee to return to work this Wednesday. Less than 8 days after her son killed himself, to help with an audit. My client said to the Director, “Why do you need her to come in? You can handle the audit yourself and if you need help I will help.” The Director said “She did say she could still smell his blood on her hands.”

Saturday, there was another racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, NY leaving 10 people dead and 3 wounded almost all of them black. One million people are dead from Covid-19 in the U.S. Grief and trauma is in the workplace at unprecedented levels.

Most organizations don’t factor in grieving at work and the impact on employee engagement and wellness. While many respond with mental health resources, which is much needed, equipping Leaders with the awareness, skills and mindset to support the grieving is noticeably lacking.

Leaders are often problem solvers. Grief, however is not a problem to be solved. It is a process to be experienced. Each person’s experience is different.

There are some best practices leaders and the people around our grieving can do to help:

1. Ask don’t assume. Ask the person what they need then offer that support

2. Understand that work is not the priority right now

3. Practice empathy.

4. Be patient.

5. Check in. Acknowledge that grief is ongoing.

6. Listen. Be present with the grieving person and listen with your whole body.

7. Like a good Ally, take your cues from the griever

Developing yourself as an inclusive leader asks you to bring your whole self to the dance. The parts that are comfortable dancing and the parts that aren’t.

As we all walk through these unprecedented times, please share what has helped you in the workplace get through one day at a time.

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