How to handle the death of an employee

December 1, 2016

keyboardThe people we work with are often like family; in fact we often spend more time with them than we do our actual family.

So when a colleague passes away, it’s only natural that co-workers, bosses and even customers can find it difficult to deal with.

Here are some ways that you can manage what has happened and put actions in place to ensure everyone has someone to talk to.

Breaking the news

If you are the manager at your workplace then it will most likely fall to you to inform the rest of your workforce about the passing of one of their colleagues. There is no right or wrong way to break the news to your employees. If you work in a small team then it might be best to gather everyone around and tell them what has happened, whereas if you work in a big team you may want to go around various departments individually to break the news, so people feel more comfortable when they find out what has happened. Under no circumstances should you inform employees via email or text message. A phone call is acceptable but only if you are unable to tell an employee face to face what has happened.

You may then decide to give your employees some time to process what has happened. That could be some time off or depending on the needs of your business may be a quiet period during the day where you can talk openly.

Supporting your fellow co-workers

No matter whether the person you worked with has passed away after a long illness or unexpectedly in a tragic accident it will most likely come as a sad shock to everyone that someone they have spent so much time with has passed away. It is important that employees are given extra support during this time and the chance to talk about their feelings, whether at work, at home or with a grief counsellor who can help them to process their emotions better. During this time of grieving you may find employees make more mistakes at work or may seem distracted – this is entirely normal and part of the process of working through their grief.

When it comes to the funeral of your colleague or employee you will need to make a decision about whether all of your employees can attend the funeral. Again this may depend on the needs of your business as it may be impractical for you to allow everyone to go.

Ways that you can honour your employee

One of the best ways that you can help your fellow workers to cope with what has happened is to begin trying to honour the memory of your employee. You may decide to send flowers to the employee’s family or make a donation to a charity that was close to them. If your company has a website then you may wish to memorialise them with a written statement and a photograph on your website which gives thanks for their time under your employment and your sadness at the loss.

In the weeks and months that follow losing a member of your team it is important to look out for each other and also to be patient. If you are worried about how an employee is handling their grief then don’t be afraid to seek advice from a charity like the Samartians who can help those in emotional distress.

For further advice on understanding the grieving process and bereavement, please click here to read our article on coping with the loss of a loved one.

For help and advice on organising a funeral, please contact us on 0151 228 3900, or leave us a message through our contact us page by clicking here.