The Impact of Grief in the Workplace


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan

Category: Grief and Loss
As the baby boomers age, so does the average age of the workforce. This increases the likelihood that we, as employees, are caregiving and subsequently grieving the death of a loved one.  In addition, we may experience the death of a co-worker. According in the American Hospice Foundation, at any given time, 25 percent of the workforce is grieving a loss. Just because one might take 3 days of bereavement, it doesn’t mean the grief process is complete. Grief is on-going and can sneak up uninvited at unexpected times.

Some grieving people find the routine of work a break from their grief. Work allows the bereaved to return to a safe environment surrounded by friendly colleagues. Others find the workplace overwhelming and it becomes too difficult to maintain focus and attend to the task at hand.

According to The Grief Index (Grief Recovery Institute 2003), the impact of grief in the workplace can result in: unexpected tardiness or absenteeism, distraction from tasks, incomplete work assignment, and difficulty making decisions, decreased concentration, increased accidents, and leaving the workforce.

If you are a grieving employee returning to work, follow these guidelines:
  • Be realistic about your expectations
  • Ease into your work
  • Prioritize your work
  • Ask for help
  • Know your limits
  • Create a place to take a breather
  • Utilize professional help (EAP) if available
Here are ways to support a grieving co-worker:
  • Do ask about their grief
  • Listen
  • Avoid the clichés of grief “Time will heal”…
  • Speak of the person who has died by name
  • Allow the person to repeat their story
  • Don’t be afraid to share your own feelings
The bottom line is that we are all impacted by grief in the workplace.  Be sensitive to others around you and if you are grieving, know that you are not alone. There is support and hope.

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