Clara Hinton
Grief Speaker, Author, and Workshop Leader

Grief in the Workplace - Something that Needs our Attention!

1/22/2013 (Grief Relief)

Executives and managers are often untrained in dealing with an employee’s grief and trying to find the right mixture of productivity and compassion and the needs of the bereaved with other employees.  According to the Wall Street Journal, workplace grief costs US businesses over $75 billion per year in reduced productivity, increased errors and accidents.  How well the workplace supports the employee through the grieving process can make all the difference in the world between the company being seen as compassionate and caring while still showing concern for its customers or those to whom it provides services.  Employee morale can be greatly impacted, and managers should not underestimate this important event in the lives of their employees.

To Help Employees
Loss is universal and everyone deals with grief differently–at home and in the workplace.  When there is acute grief, there is nothing else that matters, and these feeling can most likely spill into the workplace.  Knowing the five stages of grief and feelings that are common grief and appear in mourning can be very helpful.  It is important for employers to realize grief is the internal feelings we have that no one can see, whereas mourning is our outward expression of that grief.

Here are some tips for supervisors, managers and executives:

  • Get in touch with the bereaved employee as soon as you hear of the loss.  Place one call to their home, one call to their cell.  If you do not get a response immediately, do not bombard them with calls.  They will usually call as soon as they can.
  • Express your condolences and allow them to be emotional without judgment.
  • Ask your employee or employee’s family about funeral arrangements and what information they would like passed along to other employees and what information they would not want passed on.
  • Consider what is best for the style of your workplace.  Is it individual calls and cards or would it be better to organize a group acknowledgment?  Donations to a charity of the person’s choice are usually welcomed.  Keep cultural differences in mind.  Some cultures love flowers, others do not.
  • When the time is appropriate, discuss a work acknowledgment or memorial.  For most employers, offsite memorials work better than onsite, especially if it is the death of an employee.  It could be a tree planted in their name or an internet site such as which can help tell the story of an employee.
  • Don’t forget about your other employees who may be impacted by the loss.  They may need a time and place to discuss their feelings.
  • Know your bereavement policy as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or other resources such as EAP that may be available to the bereaved and other employees. Get help from your HR department.
  • Know that the first few  weeks after returning to work may be particularly difficult.  Be patient and understand that the workload may be impacted for a while.
  • Last but not least, grief is as unique as our fingerprint. Some employees will cry and some will not.  Some will want to talk about it, some will not.  How someone behaves in the workplace is never indicative of how much they loved or are grieving for their loved ones.

If you are interested in a workshop or Clara coming to speak to your group, please email Clara at: Every attempt will be made to get back to you within two business days.

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