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Boost Your Team's Well-being During Tough Transitions: 3 Proven Ways

Hey there! I'm thrilled you're reading this because today marks the beginning of a three-part series on a topic that's near and dear to every leader's heart (I hope) —supporting employees' well-being during tough transitions.

I focus on the challenging transition that occurs after an employee dies, but what I see over and over again is that the leadership skills needed to manage a grieving team are the same leadership skills that any leader can use!

But the big question is, how do we actually support the well-being of your team?

There are plenty of approaches how to support your employee’s well-being, but over the next three weeks, I'm going to focus on what I believe are the three most important ones: open and honest communication, employee support and resources, and honoring the memory of our fallen colleague.

Many organizations fall short in these areas, and that's why we're going to tackle them head-on.

The three areas are:

  1. Open and honest communication

  2. Offering employee support

  3. Memorializing

Today we are going to talk about communication.

Let’s be honest here. We all think we know what the word means, but we all have different ideas of what it means!

To make it easier, I thought I’d break down open and honest communication into three categories: the obvious, the not-so-obvious, and the not-done-but-great-to-do. Here's the lowdown regarding communicating after an employee's death:

a) An Obvious Solution:

Communicate early and often. Organizations send out an email to the entire company within 24 hours of an employee's passing, and that's a good move. Even if you have not verified the death, you can reach out to the team and, “Say there is a rumor that this happened. We are trying to verify the information.”

But here's the trick: make sure the email comes from the head of your organization, not HR or the employee's manager. With one exception… if you're working for a company like Honda with 37,000 employees! Having the CEO of Honda America send an email announcing the death of an employee will be overwhelming for everyone! (Can you imagine how often an email would need to go out?) Using your judgment based on the size of your organization is essential.

In addition, be sure to let folks know that more information will follow, particularly on how they can support the grieving family or share condolences. Keeping everyone in the loop in a timely way is essential to ensure the reputation of you and your company is one of caring, not avoidance.

b) A Not-So-Obvious Solution:

Give employees the opportunity to support the family directly. It could be as simple as the manager, HR, or even the employee suggesting five or six ways they can support the family, calling up the family, making the offer, and then taking action. Your employees will want to express their love for their employee’s family. Empowering them to be able to help gives everyone a sense of purpose and helps them cope with their own feelings of powerlessness, which makes working easier.

c) A Not-Done-But-Great-Solution:

Picture this: an employee passes away, and you need to find a replacement. Do you

  1. Post the job figuring that the team knew it had to happen.

  2. Post the job and send your team an email that the job has been posted.

  3. Sit down with your team, inform them that the job will be posted soon, and take the opportunity to check in with them.

C is the no-brainer choice, but it is also the most uncomfortable choice. Managing a grieving team is about the courage to have those uncomfortable conversations. This is where a grief counselor can offer invaluable support before and during these discussions, providing comfort and guidance. Most EAPs do not provide grief counselors for this purpose, but we do so reach out to us!

Supporting a grieving team is about process, creativity, and compassion, skills any leader can learn as long as they are willing to try.

How does your company communicate about an employee's death? How would you want them to? Leave a comment.

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