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Employers: Show Compassion to Your Employees During Grief or Loss

Why empathetic leaders are so needed in the workplace

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Yesterday I posted about my “defining moment.” It’s sad that the post resonated with so many people on LinkedIn, as it proves that so many others have been “kicked” while down with grief, loss or personal health issues by their ex-employers.

Here was the post…

As someone who now leads a team and employs people, I believe that employers should start to shift how they treat employees who are undergoing a personal life crisis, be it a sick loved one or the death of a family member or friend.

Employers: Treat Your PEOPLE with COMPASSION

I took some of the comments from my post and gathered them together so that you can see what it’s like for employees, for PEOPLE, who are not shown compassion in critical moments in their lives.

  • “Same here my husband was starting treatment for Brain Cancer and my employer called me and put me on full commission. I never went back to work. I started my own company and I never looked back as well. My former employer is now my customer. While it’s a challenge and a struggle at times it’s amazing. It’s my gig and I run it the way I want it. My family will always come first.” – Christine G.
  • “Wow. This was powerful. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer a few months after my 18th birthday. I called in sick to work one day because I was so stressed and wanted to spend time with her. My boss called me and said, ‘There’s nothing you can do for her. You need to come to work. Besides, you took off time a few months ago when your son died.’ Because I was so young and in my first “real” job, I went to work. My mom passed away shortly thereafter. I vowed then I’d never put another job before my family.” – Arethra G.
  • “My employer should serve as a role model for employers who went out above and beyond for an employee who was out on medical leave. Not only did he show compassion for the employee, but he also made sure the family was taken care of during that period!” – Isaiah K.
  • “I worked my tail off for a company that laid me off 2 months after my dad passed of cancer. I took 2 days off when he died and didn’t feel like I could take any time off while he was sick just to be with him. I regret it, especially since the company tossed me aside anyway. I felt guilty taking bereavement so I didn’t. Live and learn and don’t repeat.” – Meghan W.
  • “I had a similar experience my daughter was in ICU after having a brain tumor removed. I got a call asking if I could come and interview my replacement. Yep. Really! If you’re a boss and your staff member has a child in ICU unknown if she will live or die don’t think that their headspace is in a place for this kind of activity.I resigned and never went back. It took three years but we all survived.” – Rachel W.
  • “Employers and managers that try this nonsense do not deserve good employees. Work-life balance is a 2-way street, there are times when you are all in with your work and there are times you have to be all in for your family. I always tell my team that it’s family first and that work will always be here when they get back.” -Brad O.
  • “No one should ever send that type of text to their team members when they are going through something like that. People do business with people and employees should not be treated like they are less, but should be included as part of a team. If a Navy Seal crew is carrying a boat and 1 of the team cant do it for a little while the other team members pick up the slack. That’s why teams were created so no one would have to go it alone.” – Kamran J.
  • “The irony of working in healthcare and pushing the system to improve health care given is a situation like this. The FMLA protection of employment is minimal, especially if you use it for maternity. If anything happens in the first year there is no protection. The importance of having compassion for our Co-workers as well as our patients and clients cannot be overstated.” – Patrina M.

Employers, here’s how you can support employees who are mourning the death of a loved one…

  1. Understand that supporting an employee during grief or loss is not only financial but also emotional.
  2. Be emotionally supportive by asking compassionate questions like: How are you and (loved one) doing?, What can we do to help you?, What do you need?. Upon their return to work, ensure that emotional support and respect not only come from leaders in the workplace but also from coworkers.
  3. Give more bereavement time. On average, employees are given only 4 days’ leave for the death of a child or a spouse and 3 days for the death of a parent or grandparent. Grief experts recommend 20 days of bereavement leave after the death of a close family member.
  4. Be open to giving them a more flexible work schedule upon their return to work.
  5. Ensure your employee has someone in the workplace that they can talk to about their grief/loss when they return.

As employers, we need to work together to accomplish this positive shift in workplace culture…

The norm should not be to kick people when they are down and cannot produce. The norm should be to lend support during difficult times so that employees can return to work and give their best.

I think that supporting an employee during a difficult time of grief or loss makes them feel grateful for working at your company, costs employers less in the long-term and ultimately leads to a healthier and more productive workplace culture.

The bottom line is… Empathetic and compassionate leaders are essential in any workplace!

Agree?

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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