Supporting Employees Through Grief: A Compassionate Workplace Approach

Posted on November 27, 2023

White puzzle pieces apart, but loosely forming a heart.

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Danielle Rogers, Community Marketing Manager for the City of Newton, Iowa. Connect with Danielle on LinkedIn.

What I’m reading: On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good by Elise Loehnen

What I’m watching: The newest season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix

What I’m listening to: Robin Hopkins’ Well..Adjusting Podcast


In the last six months since my dad unexpectedly passed away, I’ve been on a journey of grief and reflection. It’s been tough, dark, and challenging, with societal and work expectations urging me to move on quickly. However, the reality is that I’m often numb, experiencing guilt, tears, and regret. This chapter of my life will be difficult for a while. Still, amidst the darkness, there are occasional moments of light and signs that things, though different, will be okay—broken but okay.

Grieving is a natural part of being human and affects people in their professional lives. As a leader, supporting grieving employees is not just compassionate; it’s an investment in their well-being and productivity.


Understanding Grief at Work

Grieving the loss of a family member is a deeply personal and emotional journey. Employees may find it hard to balance their grief with work demands in the workplace, affecting productivity, morale, and mental health. Recognizing this impact is the first step in creating a compassionate workplace culture. Take some time to educate yourself on grief because you will experience it sooner or later.

Communicating and Showing Empathy

A crucial part of helping grieving employees is open communication. Encourage a culture where employees can share their feelings without fear of judgment. Workplaces should train managers to be prepared to approach these conversations with empathy, offering a listening ear and expressing genuine concern.

Flexible Work Options

Grieving individuals often struggle with regular work schedules. Flexible arrangements, like remote work or adjusted hours, can relieve relief. This flexibility acknowledges the unique needs of grieving employees, empowering them to navigate their grief while meeting work responsibilities.

Grief Counseling and Support

Consider adding grief counseling to your employee assistance program. These services provide a confidential space for employees to process their emotions and receive professional guidance. Information on external grief support groups or community resources can extend your support network.

Creating a Grief-Aware Workplace

Small gestures matter. Acknowledge important dates, express collective support during anniversaries or birthdays, and show kindness by sending a sympathy card or offering a flexible break schedule. These actions demonstrate care beyond professional obligations.

Educating the Team

Fostering a supportive workplace requires grief literacy. Conduct training sessions to help employees understand the grieving process, recognize signs of distress, and learn practical ways to offer support. This education promotes empathy and reduces the stigma around discussing grief at work.

Long-Term Support Strategies

Grieving isn’t a linear process, and its effects can linger. Implement long-term support initiatives, such as periodic check-ins with grieving employees. These check-ins, conducted with sensitivity, allow employees to express their needs and concerns.

Leading by Example

Leadership sets the tone for the whole organization. Demonstrate a commitment to supporting grieving employees by openly acknowledging and discussing grief. Share personal experiences if comfortable, emphasizing that seeking support is a sign of strength.


Creating a workplace that supports employees through grief is an ongoing process requiring dedication and empathy. By fostering open communication, providing practical support, and educating your team, you contribute to a workplace culture that values its members’ well-being. In doing so, you support your employees during challenging times and cultivate a more resilient, connected, and compassionate organization.

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