Today we’re talking about bereavement and bereavement leave and what to do when you need to take bereavement.
Many companies offer very little bereavement leave. A leae of 3 days for a close loved one is typical, which we think is crazy, as our stance is that most people will not be able to come back after losing a family member after 3 days. AND, if they do come back, they won’t be at anywhere near full capacity.
We hope that company cultures support people when they are grieving, and we ask our listeners to give people who are grieving a lot of caring and compassion.
Our overall advice is to help you to take the time you need and keep your job too.
If your leave is at all anticipated, tell your manager and teammates and keep them posted. Cover your work, keep people updated, and prepare coverage like you would for any other time off.
Don’t take on big new projects when you have a loved one who is critically ill, but try to get your work covered. It’s time for some vulnerability so people understand what you are dealing with.
When there is an unexpected loss, the best thing you can do is communicate immediately, ask a colleague for help (preferably someone who will have your back), delegate and share your projects or appropriate access to someone who can figure things out. Give a quick update to everyone and let them to figure it out.
Keep in touch and update your manager/team about where you are in the process and what you need (e.g., we just had the funeral and I need another leave).
There are types of more formal, .longer leave (FMLA or unpaid leave) that can protect your job while you take the time off you need. Work with your HR team to take the right type of leave. Ask about your options and find out what you can do to keep your job.
Sometimes unpaid leave is the way to go to protect your job; sometimes taking some time off can save your job so that you’re not working while your mind is in a fog. Giving yourself time and space can really help you in the long run.
Try not to make huge decisions about work when you’re grieving because you won’t have the required 'new hire' energy. It’s not the time to do a job search. That said, how your team and manager responds to your loss is an indicator of your long term fit at the company. If they treat you well, it’s probably a special place.
If you have a team member who has experienced a loss, you want to help that person as much as you can. Take on projects, be an ear to listen, and express your condolences however feels comfortable for you. Welcome them back. Honor them and be kind.
When you’re a manager of a grieving person, how you respond to their situation will truly show your true colors. The most important thing is caring for the person- because if you do, it will come back to you in spades because not only are you affecting them, but their colleagues are watching too.