Guest blog written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting
I recently read an article written by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist who lost her husband suddenly at age 26. She talked about how her company provided her with the bereavement leave she needed to grieve, but more so about how they handled her return. She spoke of how her manager let her ease back into work by starting on a Friday and not having too much on her plate her first few days in the office. And she talked about how that manager asked her prior to her return how she wanted the topic of her husband’s death to be handled around the office. Did she want employees asking her about how she was doing, or expressing their condolences? While it didn’t ease her pain, it made her return to work so much easier.
As leaders, we often have a difficult time knowing how to handle employee hardships. Leaders have to look at what impact there will be to the company if the employee needs to take leave, while also considering how to be supportive to the employee during a difficult personal experience. And as is human nature, when someone is suffering, we often have a difficult time knowing how to react or what to say.
Here are a few ways leaders can be authentic when handling employee hardships.
- If an employee needs to go out on leave, take the time to provide them with their options and put it in writing so that they can review it later. Chances are they’re not fully able to focus on the information you have provided them verbally. Follow up with them after a few days to see if they have any questions.
- Reach out to them shortly before their return and discuss when and how they will return to work. Will they start back at the end of the week or part-time for a couple weeks to slowly ease back into the swing of things? Do they want to just jump right back in? Do they want co-workers approaching them about the situation or would they rather it not be addressed?
- Be empathetic and be patient. Let the employee know through your actions that while you may not understand what they are going through, you understand it is a difficult time for them. Don’t expect them to be back to full capacity on day one of their return, whether their leave was due to a death, a health issue, or another type of hardship, they may take some time to get back up to speed.
Too often leaders view an employee’s need for leave as an inconvenience, failing to be empathetic to what the employee is going through. This lack of empathy and accommodation will eventually have a negative impact on how employees view the culture of the organization.
Is your organization’s culture supportive and empathetic to employees during personal hardships?
To read Amy’s article, click here.