Do you have any advice for how a supervisor should inform a work team that one if its members has died? I don’t think I did a great job this week when I had to do it.
Did the employee die at work? If so, then the best thing to tell the team members might be “Run!” or “Hide!” depending on the particular circumstances.
If the employee died somewhere else and it is your lucky job to inform the soon-to-possibly-be-bereaved, the answer will still be subject to a whole bunch of variables. When an employee had been suffering from a terminal illness for a long time and was most recently in hospice care, for instance, your answer will be much different than when a person was unexpectedly and dramatically struck down by space debris while celebrating her 23rd birthday. In the first example, you must aim for a sincere projection of condolence without even a hint of “who could have seen this coming?” In the second, a professional amount of shock and awe is allowed.
In other words, be respectful and don’t make this about you. No matter what the circumstances, here are my Top Ten Ways Not To Inform Employees Of A Co-Worker’s Death:
- Any speech that begins with something like, “You’ll never guess what Joe went and did this time!”
- While giggling.
- During the same meeting as announcing the vacant position.
- In the bathroom.
- Anything that concludes with, “Now get back to work”.
- Within five minutes of donuts arriving.
- While packing up the deceased’s belongings.
- Through interpretive dance.
- Post-It note.
- Flash mob.
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