15 tips for grief counselling at work, for managers and HR-professionals
- Be relationship oriented, not work oriented towards the grieving employee
- Initiate the first conversation and keep in touch
- How you first address the grieving process dictates how it will progress at work
- Take a break from work and sit down to talk about the events that have passed. Take your time for this.
- Give explicit permission to grief and ask about the wishes of the grieving employee.
- Clarify that it may take some time to adjust to new people and situations.
- Choose the practical solutions
- Talk about absence and presence.
- Say that the other employees are informed.
- Be specific. Each grieving process is unique. Keep communicating about the wishes of the one involved. Even after a year. There is no set time for grieving.
- Help to find the meaning of the work again. Some tasks may have to be adjusted or are to taxing. Be aware of double work.
- Assure that the grieving employee isn’t isolated at home or at work. Which contacts are there?
- Make a list of the skills you have and which skills you are not sure about. Account for these missing skills. You can delegate certain tasks.
- In the event of the death of an employee, pay attention to informing the other employees in a timely fashion, and give room for remembrance and rituals, even during the year after the funeral. Preferably in accordance with the other employees.
- Inform the close colleagues, but also the people around them. Observe the behaviour, offer comfort, provide information. Pay attention to employees that have a (recent) history with the grieving process and hidden grief.
- Be open about the situation. Being closed off works counterproductive, for yourself and the workspace. It is not wrong for managers and colleagues to show emotions.
- Avoid misplaced encouragement meant as comfort. It is a denial of the grief.
- Be mindful of well-meant advice. It is enough to just listen and pay attention.
- Do not pressure the grieving employee or their colleagues. Saying: It should be done by now, will only make that the grieving employee goes into denial which will elongate the grieving process.
- Do not consider the grieving process as sick leave. Grief isn’t an illness but a healthy reaction to a great loss.
- Don’t send the grieving employee home. Work and colleagues can provide great support, even if the grieving employee isn’t very productive.
I am a senior lecturer at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, at the school of Business, department Human Resource Management, the part time education, since 2000. Before that I worked 22 years in various government companies as a human resource manager. I have my own practice Apsara. I work there as coach, grief counsellor, healer and with meditation and the principles of organisational constellations like systemic coaching. I have been working with systemic coaching with clients and with students for several years. Due to losses in my personal life I became interested in grief and grief at work in 2000. I have worked with this subject with parents but also with managers in various companies and with my part-time students. I am 63 married and had four children.
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