To Maintain Trust in the Workplace, Recognize the Need to Grieve Premium

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The departure of a manager, the abandonment of a project, the closing of a site … each of these events is a loss that has to be dealt with in the open during a suitable grieving period. Otherwise, the silent accumulation of these “little deaths” will damage employees’ trust in management.

It’s clear: major shifts and transformations (aborted projects, buyouts, mergers, layoffs, etc.) are happening at an ever-increasing rate, but the trauma that they represent for employees is not being taken seriously enough.

Help Employees Turn the Page
By creating a common framework, a company recognized grieving process enables employees to share their feelings, limits the occurrence of psychosocial dysfunctions, and creates the kind of climate of trust that teams need to get back on track more quickly.

  • Begin the grieving process by asking the right questions: what have teams learned through the project (or the period) that is coming to an end? What are teams ready to unlearn? Or learn anew?
  • Avoid the most common pitfalls: lack of preparation, complacency, rumors, and lack of perspective.
  • Keep up forward momentum: highlight the new prospects that are on the horizon for teams to help compensate for their feelings of loss.

Adapt responses to each loss
The grieving process is appropriate after the loss of personnel, products, projects, and even changes to the company’s very identity, which means that it must be adapted to meet the specific demands of each situation.

  • Executive departures: make sure that leaders have guidance from a coach to prepare for major executive departures, make the letting-go process transparent, and encourage those leaving to delegate key roles to successors.
  • Structural change to core identiy via takeovers or mergers: both organizations need to go through a grieving process. Each must act with humility; for example, the buyer has to let go of its role as “a savior” and accept the need to recognize the skills that the new team brings to the table.
  • Cancelled project: review projects that were buried too quickly, analyze the reasons why a project has failed, and take the time to listen to your teams’ grievances. Remobilize your employees with new objectives.

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To Maintain Trust in the Workplace, Recognize the Need to Grieve

Business Digest no. 218, July-August 2011.

Based on Petits deuils en entreprise (Mourning in Enterprise) by Jacques-Antoine Malarewicz, Pearson Education, February 2011.