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Does Your Workplace Reflect and Support a Compassionate and Grief-Informed Workplace Culture?

“… we are doing all of this mourning at the office—whether in the Zoom calls and Slack chats conducted from the kitchen tables and bedroom desks of those who can work from home, or in the grocery stores and hospitals and schools where essential workers are expected to be physically present every day. Yet most employers aren’t prepared to manage any of this grief, many experts warn—or the corresponding stress, anxiety, burnout, and widespread lack of productivity that is already sweeping across corporate America, and that will overshadow the workforce for years to come.” ~~ The biggest risk in business right now is grief, Maria Aspan,, September 27, 2020

Do you know how to respectfully honor your employees' grief and communicate support in a compassionate and grief-friendly manner? Do you know what to say and what not to say to an employee who is grieving the loss of a loved one? We work in partnership with you to ensure your staff members have a greater awareness of the unspoken impact of grief in order to better support and respond to bereaved employees, colleagues, clients, customers, friends, and family members. 

The Unspoken Impact of Grief in the Workplace . . .

"I put on my big girl panties and returned to work after the death of my mother. Masking the pain of my broken heart and shattered world, they applauded me for my strength and bravery. I should have received an award for pretending to be okay. They had no idea of what was really going on inside … the fear, despair, confusion, hopelessness. The pain of trying to hold it together while at work made things even worse."

Did You Know That . . .

According to a research study, most of the articles described grief training within medical education as a single voluntary workshop or seminar series over the course of one’s formal education. Workshops and seminar series on grief were commonly characterized as either one- or two-day sessions, consecutive workshop series (maximum of one week) or short modules within existing curricula. The majority of sessions were offered outside the core curriculum or as elective courses within undergraduate medical education.

 ~~ 2019 Nov 27 by PLOS One Journal

Many employees, whether they work at the office, on-site, or at home, will grieve many forms of loss during the current pandemic and beyond. Our insightful workplace grief workshops cover three main topics, including: 

  • Understanding the Unspoken Impact of Grief in the Workplace
  • Providing Support for Grieving Employees and Balancing Productivity
  • Implementing a Compassionate and Grief-Informed Workplace Culture

Our Promise to You . . .

You will have the awareness, knowledge, and skills to navigate through the adverse impact grief has on individual employees, coworkers, managers, teams, and the entire organization to ensure a compassionate and grief-informed workplace culture that works for you and your team.  

The unpredictable occasion of death will affect every workplace at some point, and no organization, regardless of size, is exempt from its impact. Employees spend the majority of their awake time with coworkers developing personal and professional relationships, and when a death occurs the sympathetic care and concern take on a personal nature with an emotional impact.

Although grief is a universal human experience, it is a challenging situation to cope with and oftentimes left to be resolved on its own. Grief can have significant consequences to an organization in areas of productivity, revenue, absenteeism, safety, turnover, and morale. It is difficult to quantify, but it is estimated that grief accounts for more than $75 billion in loss annually to American revenue, with over $37 billion attributed to death-related grief.

Many organizations do not have the information, training, and best practices to effectively respond when a death affects their workplace.

•Are you comfortable dealing with this sensitive and consuming distraction?

•Do you know how to respond to the resulting emotional, physical and productivity effects when grief visits your workplace?

•Are you familiar with the best and worst things to say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one?

•Does your workplace culture compassionately support the grieving employee and affected colleagues?

•Is your organization competent in recognizing, responding to, and reducing the negative impact grief can have in the workplace?

The physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual impacts of one’s grief experience will be unique to each individual; therefore, there is no linear, cookie-cutter, or one-size-fits-all approach to helping one navigate this wilderness of grief. Nor is it expected that a death allow the organization to ignore, cease, or delay business activities, sales, services, or customer expectations. The goal is to find the balance and flow between being compassionately supportive and minimizing the workplace disruption when a death has occurred. How you respond to an employee’s loss will have long-term implications among your workforce.

You do not have to be an expert on grief to make a positive difference in your organization. The Workplace Grief Workshop coaches executive, management, and human resources staff to better understand grief, the grieving process, negative effects of grief, best practices, and effective communication strategies to create a compassionate, supportive, professional, and productive grief-friendly work environment.

Why the Need to Address Grief in the Workplace . . .

•Employee grief is usually unsupported and misunderstood. Our understanding of the topic is limited. Knowing something about grief itself and the grieving process can be helpful in implementing practical and reasonable ways to support workplace grief.

•Grief not only affects the grieving employee but has a far-reaching impact on the organization. Workplaces provide a sense of community as most waking hours are spent with coworkers, oftentimes being referred to as extended family.

•Limited bereavement leave is afforded to employees. The more common three to five days afforded for the loss of an immediate family member isn’t sufficient to counter the effects of loss that occur weeks, or even months, following the loss. Relying on the “you should be over it” myth, it is expected that the employee return to work as a fully functioning staff member.

•Professional counseling, therapy, and mental health services such as those offered by an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are usually provided for the grieving individual and offered during non-working hours. The impact of the grief-related emotions transcends beyond the grieving employee.

•Loss of grief-related business revenue has a tremendous effect on a company’s production, sales, or services. According to a 2002 Wall Street Journal article, the hidden annual cost of grief in the workplace related to grief after a loved one’s death is estimated at $37.4 billion. It is obvious that this number has increased significantly since that time.

•A compassionate workplace culture can maintain an engaged workforce and boost employee morale, loyalty, productivity, and employee retention.

“I have long believed that people need to feel supported and understood at work. I now know that this is even more important after tragedy. And sadly, it‘s far less common than it should be. After the death of a loved one, only 60 percent of private sector workers get paid time off—and usually just a few days. When they return to work, grief can interfere with their job performance.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

What Workplace Grief Resources Might Currently be Available . . .

•Inhouse employee bereavement policies and protocol to follow upon notification of a death, i.e., HR/management reporting, communication with grieving employee, company sympathy acknowledgement, workflow reassignment, etc.

•Employee benefit programs that include bereavement leave for immediate family members (usually three to five days for employee to handle affairs following the death), life insurance, leave-sharing programs, emergency financial assistance, etc.

•Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Outsourced support and resources for employee to receive confidential professional counseling, therapy, and/or mental health services.

What Might be Missing in Your Organization . . .

We’ve been instructed to leave our personal life, issues, and challenges at the doorstep when we enter our places of employment. Unfortunately, the inseparable emotions and responses to loss cling to one regardless of what appears on the outside. The physical, emotional, and psychological effects cross the workplace threshold without our permission and take residence in the daily operation and workflow processes.

It is not our fault that we often use denial and avoidance to address the reality of grief in the workplace. The problem is that we haven’t been educated on this subject because our society still silently responds to it as the elephant in the room. It’s the topic that no one wants to talk about, but everyone needs to hear.

Just as acknowledging workplace birthdays, engagements, marriages, births, etc., we must acknowledge that grief is a normal and natural workplace event that will affect each employee at some point. Creating a grief-friendly workplace culture is beneficial to the whole organization.

How We Can Help . . .

Offering the From Grief to Gratitude Workplace Grief Workshop for your executive, management, and human resources staff arms them with a non-therapeutic coaching methodology to help:

•Understand grief, the grieving process, and the emotions resulting from the loss of a loved one.

•Raise awareness around the myths, stigmas, and judgmental perceptions surrounding grief.

•Learn best and worst things to say to someone who is grieving.

•Compassionately respond to and support grieving employees.

•Offer sympathetic care and concern for all supervisors, peers, and subordinates who are closely associated with the bereaved employee.

•Understand the cultural diversity in grief-related rituals.

•Reduce or prevent the effects of grief-related productivity and loss revenue.

•Demonstrate a proactive commitment and appreciation to the well-being and goodwill of your workforce and organization.

Our authorized Workplace Grief Coaches have been certified by the Institute of Professional Grief Coaching.  They offer virtual and inhouse workshops so there is no need for travel or extended time away from the office. The workshop can easily be scheduled to augment staff meetings, sales meetings, lunch-and-learns, and the like.  All authorized trainers are listed on this website.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need this? We offer an EAP benefit to our employees.

Great. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) helps your employees address potential difficulties impacting their job performance, wellbeing, and health by providing professional counseling and referral services. Employees will most likely schedule these appointments during their off time. The question becomes, “Are your management staff members trained to handle the employee’s grief while at work?” Also, many individuals choose to opt-out of EAP for personal concerns of the stigma and/or medical treatment associated with the effects of a clinical diagnosis on their medical records. Not all grieving individuals require professional counseling or therapy.

What is grief coaching and how does it differ from professional counseling or therapy?

The coaching profession is still relatively new. Our coaches have been trained utilizing the core competencies of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the standard for the professional coaching industry. Grief coaches do not fix, diagnose, or treat grief, and do not infer or provide professional counseling, therapy, or mental health services. Grief is not linear and there is no one size fits all approach as each individual is unique and so is their grief journey. Our coach-client relationship is future-focused with an emphasis on helping clients create forward-moving action. We ask “what’s next?” and not “why?” We don’t utilize standardized objectives based on a diagnosis, but work with the individual in a non-therapeutic, compassion-led approach. We will refer a client to another professional that can better serve the client’s needs when necessary.

Are your programs and services only for our managerial staff?

Of course not. Our coaches can provide individual and group grief coaching services for your entire staff. We can also customize a program for your organization to address any specific grief-related training needs.

A Message from Our Founder . . .

“During my years of working in the cemetery, I experienced the loss of coworkers, family members of coworkers, pets of coworkers, and personal family members and friends. Even as death care professionals, we were never prepared, instructed, offered grief support, or educated on what to do, how to respond, or how to help each other cope with these workplace-related losses. We were allowed time to cry it out amongst ourselves, but immediately returned to our offices to handle the business of serving the grieving families that walked through the front door. How do you work as a death care professional but have no knowledge of how to handle a death that affects your very own workplace? If not addressed, the painful emotions of loss such as disbelief, sadness, anger, vulnerability, isolation, denial, guilt, and regret can lead to unresolved grief, which ultimately has a negative impact on individuals, families, workplaces, schools, and communities. Our grief-avoidance society must do more to address this unavoidable sensitive event.” – Dora Carpenter, Founder, Institute of Professional Grief Coaching.

Dora Carpenter, CPC

The Institute of Professional Grief Coaching LLC, Workplace Grief Workshop, its coaches, facilitators, trainers, and its staff do not imply, infer, or attempt to fix, heal, or cure grief, and do not offer or provide professional counseling, therapy or mental health services.

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