What is  Grief?

Alfred Lord Tennyson in Canto 27 In Memoriam (1850) penned  a  poem in the requiem for his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1833. His  famous  quote;

I hold it true, whate'er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most;

'Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

The  poem as a  literal  piece  has been quoted  severally  in many aspects  when grief  becomes  part of  a season of  our  lives. What is grief? Is it merely the  loss  of  a loved one? Could  it be  a narrow view  of  how as humans we try to understand death or loss? Is grief only the  act of being downcast in spirit  and  full of sorrow, tears  or  pain? While  all these might be  true, I would define  grief  simply as  mourning of  any event in our  past, present  and future  that has been cut short  by a  trauma inflicting action or situation. 

Is Grief Really part of the Workplace? 

The  workplace is made up of people with dreams,  aspirations  and  persons who come  from communities  and  different  social setups. In these, are opportunities, relationships, and  networks  all  that  can change  from any  traumatic experience or change of events  and  cause  grief. Grief is always one event away! When an opportunity  in the  form  of  a promotion  by-passes  an eagerly awaiting staff  or job loss  is neigh through redundancy or even  the change  in contractual arrangements  resulting  to pay cuts as has been witnessed in the recent   past  brought on by an economic  crisis  of the Covid-19 pandemic then  grief  will strike  and   mourning of   opportunities of growth  that  could  have been  should  the  events  have remained  static or  changed  for the better sets in. 

Alternatively, in one’s  personal life, a break-up, divorce or separation, loss  of pregnancy or  a  sudden death of a spouse or colleague  can cause  grief. Many  life  happenings  that simply  cause  disappointments  can be emotionally and psychologically overwhelming. One’s wellbeing  will definitely  be  affected  when stress, fear and  worry becomes  part  of  life propelled by grief.

How does grief show up in the  workplace?

 The fear of  job loss and  worry of perpetual inability to  sustain oneself  and a family or  the disappointment that comes  with lack of  recognition  in form of a promotion despite  all academic  investment  are  some  of the ways  wellbeing  is  affected. Grief  just like an accident  cannot  really be  avoided  at all times  but  there  is  need  to prepare  one self  internally to know how to handle  it  when it sets upon one’s life. 

Many are the  times  at the  workplace we have  witnessed poor  performance,  a disintegrating  work culture with values  of individualism  mainly  being  upheld , suspicion and  fear characterized  in redundancies,  drug abuse such as  alcoholism  and addictions, financial  irresponsibility  resulting in debt cycles, harassment  and  bullying  often associated  with  misuse of  power, lateness to work and inability to meet deadlines, absenteeism  mainly  in the  form  of  sickness and  depression exhibiting  behavior,  lack of  a team  spirit just  to mention  but a few  scenarios that though common have not been  recognized as  signs  and  symptoms  of  a  grieving  workforce.  

HR management  in itself  gives guidance on how  to address  such  issues  protected  under the  law  and  internal policies  in many organizations. The  issue  with these approaches is  that they are mainly  targeted  to handle  effect or  facts  without  dealing much with  the  cause.  For  example,  poor  performance   can be managed  through the performance management  process  which includes   performance  improvement  plans. For  drug abuse  rehabilitation  and  summary dismissal in the  worst-case scenario might apply. 

How then should  we  Handle Grief at the  workplace? 

When talking  of  a disease such as  grief it is  important  to  acknowledge  that  prevention is  better  than  cure. HR Practioners need to empower  staff  and team leaders  to identify causes of grief and to deal with the effects. Prevention from a wellbeing  aspect is then referred to as self-care. Self-care must start with  the individual. A commitment  to take on simple but effective  practices  and cultivating habits  that  promote wellness emotionally, psychologically  and  physically. 

Dealing with grief at  the  workplace  has to embody communication  and  decision-making aspects for  change  to happen. Examples  of  better communication includes peer to peer counselling and other  Employee Assistance  Programs. Decision making aspects  are mainly  separated  by  management  and  team leads. For  example, communication of changes  by management  with transparency on any  changes  anticipated  to reduce anxiety  to staff, creating policies that uphold wellbeing such as compassionate  and bereavement leave, encouraging staff to take  breaks  and make use of annual leave to seek rest. Basically,  the  above are only but nuggets  to help address  grief at the  workplace however, one has  to soul search  and  find what  works in helping them arrive at a place of acceptance and hope as the  final stage of overcoming  grief.