Home' HR Monthly : April 2016 Contents THINGS TO S AY
THINGS TO DO
It is common to feel awkward when
trying to comfort someone who is
grieving. Many people do not know
what to say or do. The following are
suggestions to use as a guide.
Acknowledge the situation. Example: “I
heard that your_____ died.” Use the word “died”
That will show that you are more open to talk
about how the person really feels.
Express your concern. Example: “I’m terribly
sorry to hear that this happened to you.”
Be genuine in your communication and don’t hide
your feelings. Example: “I’m not sure what to say,
but I want you to know I care.”
Offer your support. Example: “Tell me what I
can do for you.”
Ask how he or she feels, and don’t assume you know
how the bereaved person feels on any given day.
SOURCE: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
“MANAGERS MUST LEARN THE BASICS OF
G R I E F, WHICH IS DEEPLY PERSONAL AND
INDIVIDUAL. AS A LEADER YOU SHOULD S AY,
I’M HERE, I CARE.”
RHONDA BRIGHTON-HALL , EXECUTIVE GENERAL MANAGER, COMMONWEALTH BANK
IS NOT OK
1. GRIEF BELONGS TO
Colleagues have a
supporting role, not a
central role. Listening is the
key skill, not sharing your
own experiences of bereavement
unless they are asked for.
2. STAY IN THE PRESENT.
It’s not always helpful to talk about how things
were either good in the past or will be better
(eventually) in the future when someone is in so
much pain in the present. Remain in the here and
now with the grieving person as they try to get
through one day at a time.
3. DON’T BACK AWAY FROM THE HURT.
Strong emotions, tears and depression are hard to
cope with as an outsider. But don’t ignore them.
You can’t fix it but you can offer comfort and
4. ANTICIPATE DON’T ASK.
Bringing into work some cooked or baked
goodies to help with normal, everyday tasks.
Offering to pick up dry cleaning, walk the dog or
anything that you can practically do if you live
nearby are ways of demonstrating that you care.
SOURCE: MEGAN DAVIES WWW.REFUGEINGRIEF.COM.
Commonwealth Bank, eyewear company Luxottica, and American food
giant Sara Lee. In her experience, to deal successfully with bereavement in
the workplace, organisations need to have three important elements in place.
1. An on- call Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that includes specialist
capability in bereavement.
2. Leaders who know the basic things to do when a bereavement occurs.
3. A culture of kindness and care, where not only HR, but all leaders can
deal with situations with compassion.
EAP providers will have different models for different size companies.
“Make sure that their response to serious issues is flexible, and responsive
to whatever the circumstances are,” says Brighton-Hall. For example, an
accident that leads to the deaths of several colleagues may require immediate
responses. But Brighton-Hall cautions against relying too heavily on a
process [such as an EAP], to solve everything. Chris Hall agrees that
businesses should be wary of seeing EAPs as a panacea, “as they can
abrogate responsibilities, and compartmentalise the difficult stuff”.
“Managers must learn the basics of grief, which is deeply personal and
individual,” says Brighton-Hall. “As a leader, you should say [to a bereaved
staff member], ‘I’m here, I care and I will give you the space to deal with
this’; not to explain how you got through a bereavement.”
In regards to a culture of kindness and care, Brighton-Hall says we should
“encourage colleagues, especially those closest to the bereaved person, to
reach out to them in an appropriate way – and to do it repeatedly”.
FEAR OF INTRUSION
Coventry believes that organisations are realising that how they deal with
bereavement ref lects more widely on their culture. “Employees will be more
engaged at work if they think the right thing is being done,” she says.
Nevertheless many employers still feel hesitant to intrude, says Chris
Hall. “We need to acknowledge the loss – even brief contact from a manager
or HR can be valuable,” he says. Simple things such as sending flowers,
attending the funeral and communicating to a bereaved individual that
they’re not letting the team down, can all have a positive impact.
“We need to overcome the fear of being too intrusive,” he says. “Be a
good listener, and be prepared to accept strong emotions.” Hall suggests
only offering advice if it’s asked for, and to be compassionate. “This is where
leadership is so critical. Don’t make assumptions about how a person is
feeling – ask them. And remember to extend support to colleagues as well.”
Your EAP people should be encouraged to talk to the bereaved person’s
team, as well as the person themselves – especially around the time when
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