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How to help grieving workers succeed

by on
in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

When workers are grieving or recover­ing from tragedy or loss, the role of the manager is vitally important. An under­standing manager can help these workers continue to succeed, while maintaining results and morale for the whole team. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Be sympathetic, but not morose. Let your words and actions say, "You are going through a bad time, but things will get bet­ter. We value you as an employee and we want to help." At times of tragedy, people often find comfort in doing a job they know how to do, surrounded each day by people they know who depend on them.

Expect mistakes and errors. It can take months before people stop being overwhelmed by the emotional demands of grief. Defer such pressures as learning new processes or working at unfamiliar tasks. Let the employee do routinely satis­fying work in congenial surroundings.

Use a buddy system. If an employee is making too many mistakes, consider having another competent co-worker check and review the work. Make clear that this doesn't represent a lack of faith or trust in the employee. Just as you might do if a worker was physically injured, have a buddy who can help share the load while the grieving worker recovers. 

Consider adjusting goals and objectives. It's in both your interest and the worker's to steadily make progress back toward expected per­formance. However, that progress can be made easier if you eliminate some pressures that are imposed by the employee's existing performance objectives. If you do this, make sure you do it officially; amend the employee's performance plan with a written explanation for the files.

Praise and encourage pre­cisely. Certainly, it's important to maintain a positive attitude and show confidence in your employees' ability to succeed, whatever the cir­cumstances. It's important, though, to make your positive feedback spe­cific and realistic when dealing with an employee whose performance may be impaired by grief. Show that you're paying close attention and that, while you understand mistakes and shortfalls, you won't overlook them. Remind workers that you know they are capable of peak per­formance, and give them credit for what they do well.

Be patient. Remember that recovering from grief, tragedy or trauma takes a lot of time. But also remember that employees usu­ally want to get through this phase in their lives just as much, if not more, than you do. You may be called upon to motivate a grieving employee who's stuck in a rut—or you may be called upon to gently hold back workers who want to push ahead before they're really ready. Either way, you're in one of the best positions to help an employee in this time of need.

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