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Oct 3 2017

What to Do When Your Coworker Is Grieving


Unfortunately, loss and traumatic events are inevitable. Your coworkers will lose friends and family members—and whether they return to work the next day or after a month, they’re probably going to be grieving at work.

Your reaction can make a difference. It’s comforting simply to know people care, but too often, we avoid saying anything because we feel uncomfortable or awkward. Sometimes we worry that bringing up the topic will remind them of what they’re going through.

As Sheryl Sandberg explained on her speaking tour for Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (the book she wrote after the unexpected death of her husband), dodging the subject is pointless.

The person’s loss hasn’t “slipped their mind”—there’s no chance of that. So take a deep breath, and say something. Your coworker will value your support more than you know.

To learn more about how to help a grieving coworker, read on.

1. Follow Your Manager’s Example

Determining the appropriate reaction can be tricky. Should you send a card? Attend the funeral? Bake a casserole? When you’re unsure, go to your manager for guidance. They’ve often dealt with similar situations and can offer experience and insights; plus, they usually know your coworker and can give you specific advice based on his or her personality and wishes.

Depending on how large your organization is and how close your supervisor is to the grieving person, they might even be discussing these issues. For example, maybe the coworker would like his team members to go to the wake; he’ll likely tell your supervisor that. Then they can communicate the message to rest of the team.

If your manager isn’t in close contact with your coworker, there may be a trusted peer who is.

2. Say, “I’m Thinking of You”

This simple statement tells your coworker that you care, you recognize what they’re going through, and if they’d like someone to talk to, you’re available.

You can also say, “I’m sorry,” “I’m available if you need me,” and “Do you mind if I check in every once in a while to see how you’re doing?”

Respect what the response is—and don’t take it personally. Your coworker might still be in shock, so if they’re not as warm as usual, it’s not because they don’t appreciate your outreach.

3. Don’t Ask Broad Questions
“How can I help?” or “Let me know if I can do anything” seem like kind, generous sentiments to express.

But put yourself in your coworker’s shoes. They’re already overwhelmed, and trying to think of what you can help with just puts another thing on their plate.

It’s far more helpful to make specific offers, such as, “Do you want me to run any errands for you?” “Can I make any calls for you?” “Do you need anyone to walk your dogs, watch your kids, or water your plants?”

All your coworker needs to do is say, “Yes, I’d love that.”

At some point, you will encounter a grieving coworker. The compassion and empathy you show could impact their day, week, or even month, so be kind and thoughtful.

About Signature Consultants, LLC

Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 29 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.

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