Many times, when someone confronts a loss and returns to their workplace, colleagues avoid talking about the situation and even act as if nothing has happened. What happens to the bereaved? Does she feel validated? Most likely she felt lonely and invalidated since nobody has shown empathy or compassion. Frequently, based on my experience with clients, the griever locks himself up in the office experiencing anger or crying, unable to concentrate on his work. The employee can’t be productive because the grief overwhelms him, and he can’t share it with anyone, because no one has shown interest in his emotional state. It is necessary to realize that we live in a grief denial society and for the bereaved is extremely difficult, especially in the workplace. Due to this, it is frequent that the employee manifests his grief through work absenteeism. They prefer to miss workdays than to go to a place of work where they are expected to be equally productive immediately after the loss and carry out the same workload.
Because their grief is not recognized or validated, the person pretends he is okay, when internally he is destroyed. In most companies, it is not customary to talk to the grieving employee and ask if they feel able to do their work-remember that what is ignored does not cease to exist, it is only repressed. Keep in mind that a grieving employee is not a productive employee.
When we talk about losses, what do we mean? We are not referring only to the death of a loved one, but also to other types of losses. For example, a divorce or loss of health, which makes us experience grief, which is the natural and unique response to loss. I say unique because we are unique. Our grief is unique, and the way it manifests itself varies from person to person, as it can be expressed in different dimensions, such as physical, emotional, social and spiritual. For example, if we think of someone who is grieving, we may imagine him sad and crying; this would be the emotional dimension. However, the employee may be manifesting their grief physically, suffering from insomnia. What if this person does not sleep at night and this affects his work? It is very likely that the next day he feels tired and sleepy.
On the other hand, what if he is irritable and vent his frustration towards others? It is very common for the griever to be very sensitive. At times, he may be asked to do specific tasks that irritate him to the point of despair or make him feel overwhelmed. All this can be the result of unprocessed grief. If this arises in the workplace, do you think this contributes to a productive and friendly professional environment?
Due to these reasons, when we speak of a compassionate and productive company, we do not only address the company’s owner or the manager. It’s for all the staff. It is necessary for everyone to understand what grief is and how it manifests itself at work and in interaction with others since this affects the griever’s productivity and their relationships at a professional level.
Always keep in mind that what happens to the person on a personal level, many times influences their job. People do not leave their grief locked up at home when they close the door in the morning and take it back when they return at night. It is not like this. Grief accompanies them all day, and when they get lost in their pain-filled thoughts, the downward spiral becomes present. The employee needs to know that he or she is capable of managing their loss. Because the idea is to help them not to suppress or forget their grief, but to process it.
Everything has to do with being leaders with humanity. We can all be those leaders! From the person who sweeps the floor to the owner of the company. We can all be leaders with humanity!
As a grief specialist, the message of compassion and care in the workplace has a special place in my heart.
There is a great need to change the dynamics of our workplace. And there are simple things you can start doing now to become that leader with humanity … that leader with a heart!
Start by paying attention, practice mindfulness, and listen.
Pay attention if there are changes in the behavior or work of the employee; Take the time to know about that person and that way you can begin to understand what is happening in their personal lives. Give your employees, your colleagues, tools to help them face any loss they are suffering and transform it into personal growth.
This is my message today. A message of hope, a message of compassion; a message of productivity, a message of leadership with humanity.
If you want to know how you can offer this philosophy to your company with the system that I created, The 11 Principles of Transformation®, let’s have a conversation.
From my heart to yours,
Ligia M. Houben, MA, FT, CGC, CPC, CSM
Life Transitions Consultant and Coach. Grief Expert.