The Solacium Group

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Reality Check: When grief and work collide On May 27th, well be doing an e-Roundtable on probably one of the most uncomfortable subjects out there: death. Although its the one outcome we inevitability all share, when it comes to death and grief at work, it's the one thing that we probably are the most ill equipped to talk about.


When my friend Brenda launched her practice The Solacium Group focusing on grief at work, I knew that other leaders were probably like me and needed to be better at talking about death and grief for their teams and for themselves. As leaders, we are expected to be on all the time. And when you experience the loss of a loved one, there is this unsaid expectation that after the obligatory company approved bereavement leave, you'll be back to normal. We all know, this just isn't the way it works. In my own life, I have been incredibly blessed to have had limited experience with to the bone grief (Im knocking on wood right now). The first time it really hit me in the face was when a former boss and mentor, Don McQuaig, succumbed to colon cancer. To say his death hit me like a ton of bricks is an understatement. I have to say, it's five years later and I still find it had to believe. His death came on the heels of a close friend losing her brother one month earlier. After seeing the pain that she was working through (her brother was my age at the time with a son the same as my daughter), I realized that life is too short and it prompted me to make some radical changes. For me, radical looked like quitting my executive job and started on my entrepreneurial journey (as the primary earner with a high personal need for security, this move was not something I would have ever considered before).


Death has a way of putting things in perspective and also flipping your life on its head. And this is why, as leaders, we need to understand how to manage through these times. Until that experience, I never felt like I knew what to say to someone who had lost somebody important and how to balance their grief with the demands of the business. I don't think I'm alone. In watching the people I coach, I've observed that it's very difficult to step out of the deliverables of the work and figure out what type of support the person in grief needs. Sometimes people in grief don't even realize they're in it. One former boss told me that he collapsed at work after his father died many, many months after his father died. In my experience, type A personalities have a tendency to push down the feelings and power through the tasks at hand.  It might work for some - but others hit the wall. Although seldom talked about, addressing grief at work is a crucial issue for every leader.

Posted by: Glain

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