When an Employee Dies

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When an Employee Dies

A death of an employee can be a shock to the workplace, especially if the death is unexpected. When an employee dies, their absence leaves a void that may impact productivity and the dynamic of the workplace. Depending on the length of employment, the relationship between the team members may have developed to become one of deep friendship which may further complicate grief. How the work group recovers from a loss of a team member will depend a lot on how the workplace management team responds.

Below are some action items to consider that can help foster resilience in a team by creating an environment where work can progress.


Showing Respect in the Workplace

  • Make a concerted effort to share information as soon as possible. Employees will be looking for any information, and in the absence of factual information the gap may be filled with misinformation and speculation that can lead to additional problems.
  • To minimize false information or rumors, include all employees in all communications when appropriate. Consider calling employees who may be away from the office.
  • Identify a place where employees can go for private time if needed
  • Develop plan of action to ensure a smooth transition of workload. Staff members may still be in the grieving process, but they will appreciate stability.
  • Conduct a workplace event to honor the employee, such as celebration luncheon to share the employee’s contributions, or participating in charity event in the employee’s name.
  • Be patient; remember that grief is important and necessary. Asking employees to “snap out of it” will not return employees to a comfortable and productive life.
  • Be prepared to support an employee who may be having difficulty moving forward by suggesting supportive services through EAP.
  • Set an example. Caring support and professionalism will set a standard that will last a long time after this experience.
  • Managers need to exercise self-care as well. They have a lot on their shoulders.

Showing Respect for the Family

  • Contact the family immediately to share condolences; send cards, flowers or food as appropriate.
  • Attend the funeral or memorial service – introduce yourself to family and share your connection to the employee
  • If possible, allow time off for employees to attend the funeral or memorial service. It will help with closure and moving forward.
  • Facilitate creation of a book of memories: this can be given to the family as a way to let them know of their loved one’s work life.

A manager has many work responsibilities, including creating a safe and productive environment. A good manager cares that workers feel supported and valued, and that they contribute to the company’s success. Finding this balance can be very difficult.  When an employee is grieving, when an employee is seriously ill, and certainly when an employee dies, the needs of the workplace and the needs of affected workers may conflict. The suggestions offered here will help, but seek additional assistance whenever it is needed.  Help is available through your EAP. Call (800) 356-0845 to speak with a licensed professional or obtain guidance on leading a work group through the loss of a co-worker.

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