Coaching Skills Certification

A skills programme by Tremendis Learning

Grief Reactions

Grief Reactions

Grief Reactions

There have been major transformations in the workplace in the last ten years. Call it the new economy, the flat organization, or the virtual office, workers everywhere are affected by restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and the demise of many dot-coms. These changes can directly affect every aspect of peoples' lives. Workers can no longer assume job security and must remain vigilant in making sure their skills stay marketable. They have to learn to manage their own careers and may have to meet greater performance demands with fewer resources.

Change can often mean loss of security, friends, control, long-time dreams, or even self-esteem. We, as humans, mourn for the loss of loved ones, as well as hopes, unrealized goals, and even job status. We can suffer a loss of self-esteem once we are laid off, demoted, or transferred to an area where we have no competence. It is important for managers to realize that it is normal to grieve when a loss occurs. Grief is a set of behaviors that comes from loss or the threat of loss. While most people will feel some anger, sadness, or anxiety, grief reactions vary from person to person, in terms of severity and longevity. This is dependent on their coping skills, previous losses, how they perceive the current loss, and how much support they get during the transition period.

Warning Signs of Grief Reactions

  • Anger, irritability
  • Distrust or suspicion
  • Self-doubt
  • Apathy about the work getting done
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Bitter resentment towards management
  • Isolation from others
  • Formal complaints or grievances
  • Lack of willingness to take risks or try new things
  • Territorial behaviors-clinging to resources, titles, etc.

For a more comprehensive view on this subject, read Coping with Workplace Change: Dealing with Loss and Grief, by J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., Crisp Publications.

What To Do Next: Ten Tips

  1. Encourage employees to talk about their feelings by using active listening. Validate their feelings.
  2. Provide information about the changes that are happening, and help employees explore what it means to them.
  3. Help them let go by having some rituals that say goodbye to the past.
  4. Build employees' self-esteem by acknowledging the contributions of people who are undergoing change.
  5. Build in some "lag time" in your productivity schedules to allow people to grief.
  6. Talk about the vision of goals for the future-yours and theirs.
  7. Communicate what new skills or knowledge will be needed in the future.
  8. Help employees make the necessary changes for their new work situation.
  9. Do some team building activities to encourage people to bond and support each other.
  10. Take care of your own feelings and work them through so you don't project your issues onto your employees.
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