Grief in the Workplace
Workplace Grief Can be Very Challenging
Much as we'd like it to be different, grief and the grieving heart do not take a break when you go to work. Someone grieving a loss still has to keep on going even when the world may be falling apart.
People can experience personal and professional losses for a variety of different reasons ranging from the death of a loved one, the break-up of a relationship, the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease to the loss of a job and other more private losses like experiencing a miscarriage.
Understandably, grief, the response to these losses, can and most often does follow employees and employers alike into the workplace affecting people's work performance on several different levels.
It may be impossible to determine the actual number of people who are affected by some type of loss at any given time. Safe estimates put these numbers in the millions, just based on the number of recorded deaths each year. It may be difficult for employees not to take grief with them to work as noted by bereaved sibling Kelly McBride:
- One of the biggest issues I faced was I had to show up for work and maintain social appearances while inside my heart had stopped beating.
Image: Pipp. Modified from Notebook. Royalty Free Use.
Grief Impacts the Workplace
Image: Modified Microsoft.
Numbers on Grief in the Workplace
According to research results released by the Grief Recovery Institute in 2003, the grief caused by the death of loved ones or a close friend, divorce, family crises, financial losses, pet losses and other major life events cost U.S. businesses more than $75.1 billion.
These financial losses are caused by caused by
- Poor concentration
- Reduced productivity
- Increased errors
In addition care giving responsibilities impact workplace employees. A 2006 study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and MetLife found that United States businesses lose approximately $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion per year in productivity for full-time employees that have care giving responsibilities whether caring for aging parents or an ailing spouse or child. Caregivers experience a number of different types of grief.
Source: The Grief Recovery Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving.
Image Source: Martin Carter. Poppy flower leaves. Royalty Free Use.
Grief in the Workplace
Ways Grief Impacts People in the Workplace
A person who has experienced a loss is likely to still be grieving for quite a while at work. He or she may experience some of the following responses that can affect their work performance:
- Problems concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Disinterest in job-related details
- Depression and mood swings
- Marital and family problems
Dr. Dyer's Resources Dealing with Loss & Grief in the Workplace
My article on Dealing with Loss & Grief in the Workplace was reprinted as a resource for the LiveandWorkWell* resource for provided as a member benefit by the United Behavioral Health. Since then it has been reproduced and reused in several other locations.
* LiveandWorkWell provides people with confidential resources for mental health and life's changes.
- Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace Part 1: Employees
An article on Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace from the Employees perspective from Journey of Hearts.
- Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace Part 2: Management
An article on Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace from the Employers perspective from Journey of Hearts.
- Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace - Part 1: Employees
The version focusing on Employees was given as part of a lecture, presentation given for the California Maritime Academy. This article has been reprinted in several different locations.
- Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace - Part 2: Management
The version focusing on Employers was given as part of a lecture, presentation given for the California Maritime Academy.
- Grief & Loss: Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace
This version of Dealing with Death & Grief in the Workplace has been reprinted as a resource by the University of Houston-Downtown as an hr (Human Resource or ESO (Employment Services and Operations) employee resource.
- Dealing with Loss & Grief in the Workplace
A copy of my article published in the March 2008 issue of The Bereavement Buddy, a resource from the National Centre for Loss & Grief, (NALAG).
Workplace Grief Website
Another resource from Dr. Dyer, the Workplace Grief website contains information to help employees, co-workers and managers better understand the normal grief response along with resources for helping those grieving a loss.
- Workplace Grief: Managing Grief and Loss in the Workplace
Grief and loss do not disappear when we enter the workplace causing a grieving person to impact the workplace in different ways.
Loss and the Workplace - Chapter
What to Do at Work When the World Crashes in Around You
Healthy Profits: The 5 Elements of Strategic Wellness in the Workplace the book is now available through the Health Profits website. Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer has contributed the chapter on Grief in the Workplace entitled "Loss and the Workplace: What to Do at Work When the World Crashes in Around You."
Dr. Dyer, a.k.a. Comfortdoc, is one of 32 authors who have contributed to the 200 page Healthy Profits book. Healthy Profits, the Book was written to be a resource for people and businesses who are already working to address the problems and create healthier and more productive workplaces.
Healthy Profits: The 5 Elements of Strategic Wellness is available through the Health Profits Health Profits website for $22.50 including shipping and will soon be available on Amazon.
Grief in the Workplace Articles on Suite 101
A series of articles focusing on grief in the workplace that I am writing on Suite 101.
- The Impact of Grief and Loss on the Workplace: Grieving Employees' Financial, Emotional and Social I
Grief does not stay quietly at home. Grief follows people to work. Grieving employees or employers can have a financial, emotional, social and physical impact on work.
- Grief from Personal Losses in the Workplace: How Private Losses Can Affect A Person's Work Performan
Grief is an overwhelming response to loss. Unfortunately, grief does not go away while a grieving person goes to work. Grieving a loss can affect a person's work.
- Bereavement Leave or Funeral Leave: Information on Taking Time Off from Work When a Loved One Dies
Bereavement leave is the time one has off from work to deal with the immediate issues surrounding the death of a love one. Sometimes it is paid, sometimes it is not.
Grief in the Workplace Book
Be watching for an extended book version of Grief in the Workplace written by Dr. Dyer based on the chapter "Loss and the Workplace: What to Do at Work When the World Crashes in Around You."
This book will be longer with more more in-depth information aimed at helping employees, managers and employers cope with grief in the workplace.
Email Dr. Dyer for updates. Send a message to comfortdoc -at- workplacegrief.org (Replace the -at- with @).
More Resources on Grief in the Workplace Quoting Dr. Dyer
- How to help a colleague cope with the loss of a loved one
In "Dealing with Death and Grief in the Workplace," Kirsti A. Dyer discusses how to handle the feelings associated with loss-not only a loss of your own, but one of someone that you work with.
- Celebrity deaths highlight the importance of grief management
It's next to impossible not to think about the nature of mortality with all of the media coverage that recent celebrity deaths have received...In addition to legions of fans, they have each left behind loved ones who will need to find a way to cope w
- Workers' bereavement benefits often fall short - Careers- msnbc.com
While some bosses show abundant compassion when employees experience the death of a loved one, many others are left with not enough time off to properly grieve.
Acknowledging Grief in the Workplace
- People never forget and never forgive if they think a person has not been respectful of death.
- That in the long run can be damaging in productivity and morale for a whole work group.
- Carol Hoffman, MSW, LCSW, CEAP
- University of California at Berkeley
It is important for co-workers and managers alike to acknowledge when a loss has occurred on a personal level and on a professional level as well. The grieving person will remember long after the loss how friends, family, co-workers and managers how a loss was handled. As noted by Carol Hoffman not being respectful of a death can lead to damage in the workplace.
Simply acknowledging the loss can provide the grieving person with some comfort in knowing that their loss has been recognized. Recognizing a co-worker or employee has experienced a loss may also help to bring out in the open something that may affect their work performance for some time.
Image: Marcin Wichary. Flowers. Creative Commons.
Resources on Grief in the Workplace
A collection of other resources on Grief and the Workplace selected from the Internet.
- Grief in the Workplace
A listing of resources from NOAH Health on Grief in the Workplace.
- HR Web Cafe:Grief in the workplace: Tips for supervisors
As an EAP, one of the most common situations we deal with is grief and loss. Everyone suffers death and loss at some point and everyone deals with grief differently. Grief can be all-consuming, an issue that spills over into the workplace long after
- In times of need: Responding when grief strikes
Like an avalanche that spreads quickly across segments grief reaches far across a person's life. It has performance, productivity, safety and communication implications at work. It also can impact physical and mental health an article from SMB Human
- Grief in the Workplace
This web article is designed to provide information on how grief affects three audiences: those experiencing a loss, those working with someone experiencing grief, and those managing someone experiencing grief.
- Caringinfo - Grief in the Workplace
Grief affects all of us at different times and places in our lives. The workplace is not untouched by grief. Grief in the workplace occurs when you or a co-worker has experienced a personal loss or a workplace loss such as a death.
- Grief in the Workplace-A Helpful Guide to Expressing Sympathy
When someone in the workplace has experienced the loss of a loved one, reaching out and letting them know how much you care can be a tremendous comfort. When it comes to expressions of sympathy, differences in religious beliefs and customs can make i
- Grief in the workplace
When a coworker is experiencing grief due to the loss of a loved one, it can be hard to approach him or her to express your condolences. Read our simple guide to showing your sympathy in the workplace.
- Managing Grief at the Workplace
An Interview on Managing Grief in the workplace with David Russo by Brenda Paik Sunoo.
- Facing Grief In the Workplace
Monday, morning. I was down. As they say, "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." But this Monday was particularly despairing. An article from the Compassionate Friends in Canada.
- Dealing with Loss and Grief in the Workplace
Everyone is affected by loss and grief at some time in their life. This applies in the workplace as much as anywhere else. People do not leave their grief at home when they go to work and, of course, loss issues can arise within the workplace as well
- Grief in the Workplace: An Outline for Helping - LegacyConnect
Center Grief Recovery Jerry Rothman, MSW, PhD STOP ACTION first step dealing death institution workplace stop normal activities and reschedule them so employees can come together share their thoughts and feelings Depending organization, moratorium ta
- Workplace Death - Partnerships in Grieving
This site answers some of the common questions asked by people who have lost someone in a workplace death.
- Grief Reactions Associated with the Workplace
After a death of a close relative or friend it is customary for the bereaved person to be allowed three days of compassionate leave from work. This is often not sufficient time for the funeral to be arranged or for the bereaved person to recover suff
- Dealing with Grief and Bereavement in the Workplace
As the workforce ages, the number of employees having to deal with family members' illnesses and death is likely to grow. More than 44 million Americans provide care for other adults, generally family members, and more than half of all care-givers ar
- Coping with Workplace Grief - CFO Magazine
Finance managers are struggling to balance employee grief with the need to be productive. It's ''back to business,'' but it's certainly not ''business as usual.''
- Dealing with the stress of co-worker loss
Wellergize Workplace Wellness / Health Promotion blog takes a look at dealing with the stresses of co-worker loss.
- Misread workplace e-mails cause grief
As much as 33 per cent of workers in Britain say they are offended by language used in work e-mails.
- Grief at Work - American Hospice Foundation
Grief at Work articles from the American Hospice Foundation. Many of our articles are provided in .pdf format. To open these documents, you will need Adobe Reader.
Healing Grief at Work: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Workplace Is Touched by Loss
Grief and Loss expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt wrote this book with 100 practical ideas you can follow after your workplace is touched by loss.
Wolfelt looks at the different kinds of grief workers can experience--death, divorce and layoffs. He offers effective ways to channel grief during the workday, how to support coworkers who mourn, participation in group memorials, and negotiating appropriate bereavement leave.
Suggested Ways of Helping a Grieving Co-worker
Being supportive of a co-worker or employee who is grieving a loss can be very helpful for the grieving person. Knowing friends, family, co-workers and employers are thinking of them and wishing them support can provide comfort to someone grieving a loss.
Here are some suggestions of ways to help a grieving co-worker.
- Let the co-worker know you empathize with their loss--in person or in writing.
- Respect the grieving person's desire for privacy.
- Remember to include the co-worker in any social plans. Let your co-worker decide whether to accept or decline the invitation.
- Accept less than their best performance from your co-worker for a while, but expect them to return to their best over time.
Ways of Sending Condolences to Your Colleagues
Knowing what to do with a grieving co-worker can be awkward because we want to somehow want to acknowledge the loss, but many people are uncomfortable with being confronted about a loss, knowing that bringing up the loss might lead to a public displays of emotions (hugs, crying etc.)
The following list are just some ways that you can send your condolences to colleagues or show your support when they are grieving a loss.
Note: Not all of these suggestions are appropriate in every situation. Much depends on the circumstances of the loss and your relationship with your grieving colleague.
- Send a Note
- Write a Letter
- Send an eMail message
- Consider sending a Text or IM message - only if this is how you communicate normally with your colleague.
- Send Flowers
- Make a Donation to their favorite charity.
- Organize a Memorial in the worksite
- Attend the Funeral or Memorial Service
Condolence Etiquette in the Workplace by Dr. Dyer
- Can I Send Email Condolences? Etiquette for Emailling Sympathies and Condolences | Suite101.com
Email is one of the ways that people use to communicate with each other daily. However there are some situations where email is not appropriate, like sending condolences.
- Can I Send My Condolences by Text, IM or Email?
Even in an era of so many different ways of being in touch with people, there are some personal communications, such as condolences or sympathy, that should still be delivered in person or by snail mail.I started this lens to find an answer to the qu
- Can I Send Instant Messages as Condolences? Etiquette for Sending Sympathies and Condolences by Inst
Instant messages are used by many people to communicate with each other. However experts feel that text messages should not be used at all with more serious topics.
- Six Questions to Ask Before You Hit "Send": Etiquette for Sending Condolences by Email, Text or Inst
With all of the modern technology there are many ways that messages can now be sent from email to texting. Not all of these are recommended for sending condolence.
- Can I Send Text Message Condolences? Etiquette for Texting Bad News, Sympathies and Condolences | Su
Text messages are one way routinely used by many to communicate with each other. However, experts feel that text messages should not be used for more serious topics.
- Twitter to Announce Deaths, Send Sympathies and Condolences
In addition to being one of the hottest social media tools, Twitter is becoming a medium for announcing deaths and sending sympathies and condolences.This lens started as a way to look at sending ones condolences and sympathies on Twitter.
Loss, Grief, and Trauma in the Workplace (Death, Value and Meaning)
In this book Loss, Grief, and Trauma in the Workplace author Neil Thompson offers a basic understanding of how loss, grief, and trauma affect people in the workplace.
Thompson offers advice so that executives, managers, human resource professionals, and employee assistance staff may be able to more effectively help their grieving employees to cope with life's losses.
Blog Posts on Grief and the Workplace from Dr. Dyer
- June 25, 2009. A "Where were you when..." Day | Grief, Loss & Bereavement Edublog
Over the course of a few hours the tweets went from people wishing her well and hoping she would have a chance to marry her long-time companion Ryan O'Neal to news of her death at 9:28 AM.
- Taking a Risk to Bloom in the Spring | Grief, Loss & Bereavement Edublog
I was asked to write an article for the Healthy Profits Newsletter the incorporated Spring. Since the chapter that I contributed to the Healthy Profits: The 5 Elements Of Strategic Wellness book was on "Loss and the Workplace: What to Do at Work When
- Living with Loss eBook | Grief, Loss & Bereavement Edublog
The Living with Loss By Understanding Grief eBook is a complementary resource that I helped write, design, create and get published as part of the Tuolumne County Working Group for Loss & Grief Education and Support. The booklet was written in 20
- Identifying, Understanding and Working with Grieving Parents in the NICU - SlideShare | Grief, Loss
This lecture was prepared and given at the First Annual Perinatal Conference held by the March of Dimes Valley Division in Modesto California in November 2005.
- Grief, Loss & Transitions - Journey of Hearts Blog: Poems for Times of Turmoil
The email "gift" came from the staff of the Academy of American Poets with links to a collection of poems specially selected for Times of Turmoil.
- Grief, Loss & Transitions - Journey of Hearts Blog: Growing from Challenges
I figured I would continue to explore resources for coping with challenges. With all of the craziness going on I think that many people will continue to need some comforting words. Comedians often turn to comedy as a way of coping with their own life
- Grief, Loss & Transitions - Journey of Hearts Blog: What is an Anniversary Response or Anniversa
The 11th anniversary of the Sudden Death of Princess Diana today, the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina a few days ago (August 29) and the upcoming anniversaries of the deaths of Steve Irwin (September 4, the 2nd) and September 11th (the 7th) all
Grief Doesn't Take a Break
Image: Modified Microsoft.
Bereavement leave or funeral leave is the time off given to an employee by his or her employer to settle all of the matters and issues surrounding the funeral and reading of the will. The time span ranges from a few days to a few weeks, in the best of circumstances.
Bereavement leave may be granted by an employer with or without pay.
- Bereavement Leave or Funeral Leave: Information on Taking Time Off from Work When a Loved One Dies
More information on Bereavement from a Suite101.com article.
Taking Heartache Leave or a Grief Break
According to a 2006 article in the Japan Times, one company in Japan (Hime & Company) offers their employees the option of taking shitsuren kyuka or heartache leave, "compassionate leave to fix a broken heart" or "a [paid] holiday you take when that happens and you feel too devastated to come to the office."
Company CEO Miki Hiradate began offering shitsuren kyuka at the suggestion of her young female employees, who suggested this type of benefit when asked what they wanted from a female-friendly company. Perhaps companies in the United States should consider offering shitsuren kyuka or paid Grief Leave.
In the United States, bereavement leave is often limited to a few days and is not a required paid benefit. Maybe grief or bereavement will eventually become a paid benefit as an updated version of "The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993."
Another option for grieving employees who can't get time off from work, is to take a brief Grief Break on the job.
A grief break can be a simple as taking a few moments to go to the restroom and giving yourself a few minutes to let the tears (or the screams) out before returning to work. A grief break might also be taking a few minutes to get away from work and grab lunch, go walk in a near by park or go to the gym for a workout.
A grief break is designed to get the grieving person time to remember his or her loss and then come back to on focus on work and the task at hand.
Source: Hani Y. 2006. Heartbreak heaven for staff. The Japan Times.
Image: Red Chair. Royalty Free Use.
More on Grief
Learning to Live with Grief
- Grief melts away like snow in May,
- as if there were no such old thing.
- George Herbert
The grieving person eventually becomes aware that life goes on and begins to take steps back into the world and live again.
As the grieving person learns how to integrate the loss, the winter of their grief gives way to a spring of rebirth and living a new life.
Source: Dyer K. 2009. Taking a Risk to Bloom in the Spring. Grief, Loss & Bereavement Edublog.
You can download the full inspiring article on Taking a Risk to Bloom in the Spring as a PDF File from Docstoc.
Books on Helping Others Cope with Grief and Loss on Amazon
Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs
The benefits of workplace wellness programs have been documented in numerous studies.
More businesses and managers are realizing these benefits and developing health promotion or workplace wellness plans for their employees.
In addition to the benefits for employees' health, the Infinite Health Coach points out some of the other benefits of having a Workplace Wellness Program:
- Improving employee health
- Reducing preventable health care utilization and lowering health care costs
- Enhancing work performance
- Improving employee satisfaction and retention
Image: Modified Microsoft.
Articles on Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs
- Cost-conscious companies re-evaluate wellness programs - USATODAY.com
Companies, desperate to slice fat from their budgets during this recession, increasingly are targeting workplace wellness programs. Smoking cessation and weight-loss programs are among those being considered for the chopping block, says Laurel...
- Benefits of a Workplace / Corporate / Employee Wellness Program - Natural Healthcare.ca
Financial and other benefits of implementing a Corporate / Employee / Workplace Wellness Programs for Canadian business.
- Workplace Wellness Programs: A Winning Idea
Workplace wellness programs encourage employees to take steps to prevent health conditions, eliminate unhealthy behaviors, promote healthy lifestyles.
- Workplace wellness grows globally - Benefits Selling
A new survey by Buck Consultants shows that while wellness programs are still most popular in North America, they are becoming more prevalent globally.
- Workplace wellness: The benefits of implementing a wellness plan
The buzz around worksite wellness programs continues to grow - and with good reason. More and more employers are looking to incorporate health promotion and disease prevention into their business strategy and culture.
Books to Promote Workplace Wellness on Amazon
Have you ever had to cope with grief in your workplace setting?