The following is a discussion starter for developing a support program among employees as a 40 bed hospital. If you have insights from your own experience, I would appreciate hearing them. And if you would like help thinking through your own situation, I’d be happy to share in that conversation also.
An updated summary version is available here in pdf.
Initial conversation –
In the past few months several of our coworkers have experienced the death of significant person in their lives. Others are entering a new stage of life with parents and others experiencing a decline in physical or mental health. Still others experience stress and grief related to relationship conflicts and disappointments. All of this has prompted a discussion regarding how we as a staff support one another during these difficult seasons.
Some considerations –
Work relationships are important. People spend half of their waking hours at work. We often spend more time interacting with coworkers than any other people. At a place like TCH, because of our size, the potential increases for us to develop a sense of family. In our families we typically know how to respond when someone has a loss, but at work we may be less confident in what we might say or do to support one another.
What happens when a TCH staff member has a loss? Who do they tell, and what happens next? Some possibilities:
- Employee informs supervisor
- Supervisor/employee informs HR
- Supervisor or HR have a sit-down with employee offer support and discuss bereavement leave and EAP
- Supervisor or HR informs leadership team & Support Team (Psychologist, Chaplain, Social Workers, etc …)
- Employee’s immediate coworkers are informed, with the permission of the employee
- Formal acknowledgement of sympathy is sent (card, flowers, memorial, etc)
- A “Buddy” coworker is tasked with offering intentional and focused support to the employee, with training and backup from the Support Team. Support may include how often to follow up and how – i.e. have lunch weekly for a month, and monthly for a year. Invite conversation, offer permission to share thoughts and feelings, and to normalize the grief process over time.
- Supervisor or HR follow up periodically, prompted by a reminder in Outlook.
- Employees have the right to “opt out” saying, “I do not want to receive specific attention for my loss” and to change their minds and “opt back in”.
How do we as a staff support one another more generally?
- Normalizing the grief and loss experience:
- Recognition that loss comes in many different forms – death, divorce, illness or disability of self or significant other, loss of a hope or dream, significant geographic move of self or others, graduation of kids from High School or College,
- Recognition that grief is expressed in many different ways – sadness, depression, flat affect, anger, lethargy, manic episodes,
- Recognition that grief does not respect rules or a timeline – it ebbs and flows, sometimes sneaking up on us and taking us very much by surprise.
- Periodic in-service training and town hall meetings to discuss various topics (quarterly or semiannually?)
- Monthly book study
What is the difference between “sharing information to enable and encourage support” and “gossip”?
What are the boundaries between being friendly, collegial, supportive, and being intrusive? How do we invite/encourage each person to state their need and be able to speak when their need changes?
What other questions/considerations need to be raised that are not identified here?