How Managers Can Support Employees Through Grief

As a manager, you probably think often about how to motivate and inspire your sales reps. You know how to provide proper training for them, coach them through difficult sales calls and help them manage their time. But do you know how to respond if a sales rep comes to you to share their personal grief and loss? Many managers aren’t sure how to help their employees through life’s sorrows, according to author and coach Lara Hogan.

While you might not know how to appropriately respond when an employee shares some heavy news, you can be prepared the next time the topic arises. We share Hogan’s tips on supporting employees through their grief in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Create a go-to response. After learning some sad news from an employee, Hogan suggests managers respond with a simple, “Oh, I’m so sorry” or “That sounds incredibly tough.” These go-to responses show that you are listening and open to talking more. If your employee reaches out via email, you can simply respond with, “Thank you so much for letting me know.” Remember that your job is not to problem-solve for the employee—your job is simply to listen and make sure your team member has what they need at work.

Match the other person’s energy. Just as you would mirror a prospect’s body language and energy, you should do the same with employees who are sharing their grief with you. If they are speaking softly and not looking at the camera, take your energy down to match theirs. You can also use affirming body language, such as gentle eye contact, subtly leaning in, and just being with them, says Hogan. If your employee starts crying or pauses when speaking, refrain from filling the space. Instead, say something like, “Take all the time you need.”

Understand your role. You may be the kind of manager who welcomes their employees to share their emotions, or you may feel uncomfortable having these kinds of conversations. Hogan says that’s why you should understand your own boundaries and expertise. If your employees are going through a significant loss, a therapist or coach may be better suited to help them through their grief. If you are in a situation that’s beyond your expertise, Hogan recommends saying something like, “I want to support you every way I can. Let me research some resources our company offers and get back to you. Would that be okay?”

Follow up. If one of your team members takes time off for bereavement or other extended time away, be sure to check in and let them know you are thinking of them. Hogan likes to send a card because it does not require a response. If your employee has explicitly given you permission to share their news with the rest of your team, you can send flowers or a care package from their colleagues. The idea is to show them that you care without leaving them burdened to respond.

It can difficult knowing how to handle a team member who has endured a personal loss. Everyone experiences grief in different ways, and it’s up to you as a manger to provide the appropriate support. If someone on your team is dealing with grief, you can show up for them in the best way by considering the guidance above.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lara Hogan is an author, public speaker and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.

filed under November 2020
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