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Perspectives on Grieving

It Just Makes Cents. Grief Support and Education in the Workplace

Elephant in the RoomWe all know the metaphor of the elephant in the room.  Grief is one of our culture’s most destructive elephants, but especially so in the workplace where admitting vulnerability can be a very real risk. The much ignored elephant of grief can cause a lot of damage to your workplace, but it doesn’t have to.  

Here are the facts:  1 in 4 of your employees is grieving.  The “Grief Index” study shows that the average annual cost in lost productivity, lost business, and poor performance is more than $75 billion for all grief inducing experiences (illness, divorce, moving, job changes etc.).  $46.9 billion is attributed to the death of a family member, colleague, friend, or animal companion. Ignoring the elephant also causes an increased number of sick days and accidents.  And that’s just the financial cost.  Unaddressed, unsupported grief in the workplace has a tremendous personal and relational cost as well. What's the elephant costing your company? 

Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post on June 3, 2015 (one month after her husband died from cardiac arrhythmia) describes the benefit of creating a “good mourning” workplace where grief can be openly addressed and supported. 

“For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. They thought, “Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say?” I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues; I needed to let them in and that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.” 

Learning how to talk about grief in the workplace is a benefit. Learning how to support grieving co-workers is a benefit.  Kicking the elephant out of your office is a benefit. If you don’t address the elephant in the room it can cost your company dearly in lost productivity, higher absenteeism, low employee morale, and increased medical and prescription costs.

 “I see a direct link with not only with our health and wellness initiatives, but also our diversity and inclusion commitment by offering grief support in the workplace. Fostering an environment where each employee feels they can bring their full, authentic self to work is so important. And having colleagues who are allies for inclusion, who are comfortable just listening or talking about this often taboo topic, is a win.  Imagine offers the resources and training to deliver on this support and I am grateful to be able to offer their services to my employees.”

- Sheila Rostiac, Imagine Board Member and VP Total Rewards & Talent Management, PSEG Services Corporation

Grief support in the workplace is not just common sense, but it is good business sense.

For more information about how you can provide grief support and/or training in your workplace contact Imagine or Clinical Training Director, Connie Palmer at connie@imaginenj.org or 908-264-3100.

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