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How to Tell Staff About the Death of a Coworker

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Co-workers spend many hours a week in one another's company, developing friendships that go beyond their working relationships. The death of a co-worker can come as a shock to employees, who require guidance from management as to what is appropriate behavior in the workplace. Leaders should be considerate when conveying the information and give employees space to grieve and memorialize the deceased person.

Start With Immediate Co-Workers

James L., a company president who had to break the news about an employee's death, told an interviewer at "Psychology Today" that he started with that individual's closest co-workers. First, he told the person's team leader, then held a meeting with the entire team, and then the entire company. These were all in-person meetings and touched upon the worker's contributions to the company.

Contact Employees Who Are Away

When employees are on vacation, out sick or otherwise out of the loop of the office news, they will be faced with the co-worker's death upon their return. Managers should avoid awkward or insensitive interactions by giving absent employees a heads-up. Phone the individuals, which allows for a conversation, or meet with them in person immediately upon their return.

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Plan an Office Memorial

The deceased person's contributions to the workplace should be acknowledged. This will make all employees feel comfortable talking about the deceased person and give them somewhere to go in remembrance. A plaque in the office or tree in the greenery outside the building are examples of appropriate memorials.

Give Employees a Place to Grieve In Private

The workplace often has a professional decorum. Employees may be uncomfortable showing overt emotion in their usual working space. Designating an area where employees can go for quiet time can ease this discomfort. Offering the services of a grief counselor can also help employees through the shock and devastation of the loss.

Provide Information About the Service

Managers should contact the deceased employee's family privately to offer condolences and ask if co-workers are welcome to attend a memorial service. If families choose to offer this information, disseminate in through the office so everyone has the option to attend. Managers should allow employees to take time off from work to attend the service.

About the Author

Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).

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