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July 12, 2014
by Christie Hunter

Grief in the Workplace: How can Managers Balance Productivity and Compassion?

July 12, 2014 04:55 by Christie Hunter  [About the Author]

Cost of Grief

Grief refers to the physical, behavioral, and emotional reactions to a loss. Many people regard it as illness; however, it is a struggle that involves a feeling of emptiness (Perreault, 2011). According to the Grief Index of 2003 Survey report, the cost of grieving employees born by US businesses was nearly $74 billion a year.



·       Death of a family member or a loved One: $37.6 billion

·       Death of an Acquaintance: $7 billion

·       Family crisis such as taking care of a frail family member or a disabled child: $9 billion

·       Financial Trouble at Home: $4.6 billion

·       Loss of Pet: $2.4 billion

·       Marital woes and divorce: $11 billion

These hidden costs are not just the loss of a single business; in reality, it damages the economy and society. Perhaps this is the reason why bereavement centers are increasing in the country every year.

While grief is often associated with the losses related to the death of a loved one, workplace changes and uncertainties can also be a source of similar feelings. For instance, unexpected de-layering (layoffs) and terminations can lead to job insecurity which itself is a major stressor.

Consequences of Grieving Employees for an Organization

The manifestations of emotional setbacks and losses have cumulative effects on efficiency and productivity of organizations (Perreault, 2011).

·       Absenteeism

·       Conflict of subordinate-manager interests

·       Cost of hiring and training new employees

·       Decreased productivity and lack of creativity

·       Disruption to customers, suppliers, and business partners

·       Emotional outbursts of angry workers

·       High counseling costs

·       High employee turnover

·       Impede memory

·       Reduced morale and motivation

·       Unpredictable mood swings and behavioral changes

Managers and CEOs need to take initiatives to support such employees and help them come out of misery. You might come across people who may seem perfectly normal, but for the sake of humanity, do not ignore the wounded personality hidden underneath a polished appearance. Flexible working hours are one way to help employees cope with emotional losses (NALAG, 2012).

What Managers Can Do?

Managers must try to explore the particular needs of bereaved caregivers returning to work after suffering a traumatic incident. Remember that a strategy that worked for one employee may not be beneficial for other. In addition to that, many people successfully come out of a trauma, bereavement, mourning, and grief within two months; however, some may develop complicated or chronic grief that may last for months and years (GR., 2014).

Another research study concludes that an organizational culture that empowers employees and promotes humane behavior and humanity can ultimately help the sufferers and improve employee motivation (Edwards, 2009). Establishing a culture does not only require managers to be compassionate, but there is also a need to train other employees to create an environment that oozes concern. Perhaps the occupational health advisors can provide guidance to managers and coworkers as to how to interact and care for a bereaved individual (Quan J, 2000).

Helping Grieving People

Listen Patiently: Sharing feelings help grieving people shed the burden of pain. One must acknowledge their suffering and ensure their support in time of need. You cannot rewind the time, but you can certainly listen to their story and feel their pain.

Be a Shoulder to cry on: Crying helps heal emotional setbacks. They have gone through a difficult experience, so be prepared to lend a tissue for tears.

Stay in Touch with Them: Whether you are just a colleague or a close friend, a quick text message on the phone or a short email will not let the sufferer feel lonely.

Final Word

The power of love, relationships, and feelings cannot be denied and, unfortunately, life is full of uncertainties. Grief is a natural human behavior and measures should be taken to make the process easier for an employee. Whether you are a CEO or a gatekeeper, everyone is equal when it comes to the heartache. Organizational policies should be rational, justified, and equal for everyone.


1)     Edwards, C. (2009). Empowering people at work in the face of death and bereavement. MedlinePlus Health Information.

2)     GR., Z. (2014). Trauma in the workplace: grief counseling 101.

3)     NALAG. (2012). Loss and Grief in the workplace. NALAG (NSW) Inc.

4)     Perreault, Y. (2011). When Grief Comes to Work: Managing Grief and Loss in the Workplace. The AIDS Bereavement and Resiliency Program of Ontario.

5)     Quan J, W. M. (2000). Bereavement support: The occupational health nurse's role when death comes to work. AAOHN , 461-9.


About the Author

Christie Hunter

Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at -

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