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Helping Employees Cope with the Death of a Co-Worker or Close Family Member Sandra Ray, CIRS United Way of Greater Houston And Toni Gutierrez, M.Ed, CIRS,

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Presentation on theme: "Helping Employees Cope with the Death of a Co-Worker or Close Family Member Sandra Ray, CIRS United Way of Greater Houston And Toni Gutierrez, M.Ed, CIRS,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Helping Employees Cope with the Death of a Co-Worker or Close Family Member Sandra Ray, CIRS United Way of Greater Houston And Toni Gutierrez, M.Ed, CIRS, CRS, CIRS-A Concho Valley Council of Governments

2 Objectives Planning in advance for the death of an employee or a co-worker (agency policies/procedures) Examining the situation. Is the death expected or imminent? Is it an unexpected event? Coping with the supervisors grief while assisting employees with the grieving process Managing the day-to-day work after the death of an employee. Transitioning to the new normal and moving to the next steps in the program/agency.

3 Unimaginable Circumstances Co-worker deaths can have significant impact on workplace Can affect productivity of workplace Dynamics of workplace can change dramatically People who work together can become like extended family, and when they suffer a loss, friends and co-workers grieve. (www.michigan.gov)

4 Policies/Procedures Many organizations do not have policies relating to death of employees. Consider issues such as: What is supervisors role? What role does Human Resources play? Who can be informed and at what point? (includes family, emergency contacts, employees at different levels of agency)

5 Nature of Death Terminal illness May allow time for employees to process and have closure Consider Unexpected Death May invoke especially strong emotions Contact employees who are away from office Provide private grieving space

6 Daily Operations What were the employees job duties? Redistribute job duties Promote someone to assume these duties Rehire position Make decisions about workspace. Length of time deceased employees workspace may be empty Consider rearranging office space if possible

7 Workspace Issues It can be awkward to sort through a deceased employees personal effects. The supervisor and one other person (possibly an HR representative) should be present when sorting through these items. Catalogue items as you sort Return to the designated family member – if items will be shipped, get proof of delivery.

8 Working with the Family Family members may want to visit the office. Establish boundaries or time frames for these visits. Be prepared for the emotions of the families.

9 Working With the Family HR department needs to be primary contact for benefit issues. Agencies without HR departments may delegate these issues to the immediate supervisor. Determine answers to questions like scope of benefits, beneficiaries, and any final pay issues before meeting with the family. Accrued sick/vacation leave payout Employees without a will Notification of insurance company/copy of death certificate

10 Grieving in the Workplace Designate one person to handle s/phone calls regarding donations, flowers, gifts for family, etc. If the memorial services or funeral take place during work hours, staff persons may want to attend. Have a back-up plan for operations during this time. Consider holding a separate memorial service for the workplace.

11 Memorial Services Let employees help plan Keep program neutral to honor religious/spiritual needs of all employees Allow enough time for everyone to say good-bye If memorial service isnt possible, consider a short retreat from office to process emotions

12 Grief Counseling for Employees Some issues are best handled by professionals Group grief sessions with a trained therapist may help If organization has an Employee Assistance Program, stress its benefit to employees to let them grieve individually.

13 Supervisors Grieve Too Supervisors face unique situation. Seen as person who is strong and will lead the agency into new normal, yet need time to grieve. Is it ok to cry in front of your staff? Employees should see active grieving, yet continued productivity Consider personal sessions with grief counselor or EAP

14 Moving Forward Support informal rituals if possible Donations to charity Dedicate tree or library book to deceased New employees are not replacements for the deceased Return to productive work in a respectful way that honors deceaseds memory

15 When a Co-Worker Experiences a Loss Cards, flowers, handwritten notes Co-workers may be able to donate vacation days for additional time off Consider ways to help short-term Donate gift cards for meals Offer to provide childcare for respite Provide housekeeping or yard work

16 When a Co-Worker Experiences a Loss Grieving is a long-term process Amount of leave time available to employees will not give them time to fully grieve before returning to work Be sensitive to moments when employee may seem overwhelmed Be available. EAP options

17 Questions? Sandra Ray, CIRS United Way of Greater Houston Toni Gutierrez, M.Ed, CIRS, CRS, CIRS-A Concho Valley Council of Governments


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