I consider Orlando, Florida to be home.
I wasn’t born in Orlando. In fact, many people who call Orlando home weren’t born in The City Beautiful. I went to high school in Orlando. Graduated from college in Orlando. I went to my first gay bar in Orlando. Met Mr. Bartender and got married in Orlando. We bought our first home together in Orlando. Got my first human resources job in Orlando.
You get the point. #IAmOrlando
But a lot of people who don’t have my years of connection to the city are feeling the same sadness, anger, frustration, fear and emotions from the incident that took place over the weekend. They have their own Orlando story and feel a connection. Whether it’s because of a person they know, a trip they took, or something else, it’s deeply personal. It’s possible as you’re reading this, you have your own Orlando connection.
If you’re like me, right now you’re planning and packing for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference. I can’t help but think about past conferences, like SHRM 2014 in Orlando. As human resources professionals, we have a dual role during times of grief. We have to deal with our own personal emotions that we are processing, while helping others within the organization. We have to help people heal while, at the same time, help keep the business running.
This is a time for organizations to use their resources to help employees. There will be people who are visibly upset but, for others, it’s difficult to see their thoughts. We shouldn’t make assumptions about the way others feel and we don’t have to become professional counselors. Here are a few things to consider:
Contact your employee assistance program (EAP) to see what options are available to employees. Some employees might be reluctant to ask if services are available. Proactively letting employees know they can use their benefits could be helpful.
Find out if your health insurance plan offers any benefits employees might be able to use. Employees might have family members who need help. Knowing the answer could help employees maneuver through the complexities of the system.
Offer guidance to managers about the appropriate ways to discuss the topic with employees. Managers might be reluctant to address the issue with employees and feel keeping the conversation “strictly business” is the way to go. Let managers know it’s okay to talk with employees and possibly, cut them a little slack when it comes to distractions and work.
Search the industry resources available for articles, tools, and templates. For example, SHRM has a wealth of resources on disaster preparedness, workplace violence, and dealing with the death of an employee or coworker. SHRM sent me a list of links you might find helpful – I’ve put them together on this downloadable document.
Have resources available to the human resources team. It could make sense to keep a book about grieving at work in the HR library. Here’s one to take a look at: “Healing Grief at Work: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Workplace is Touched by Loss.”
Bring in a counselor to chat with employees to help them heal. Don’t make the assumption that using a counselor is overreacting. These professionals do their job very well and are trained to handle conversations privately without a disruption to the business.
Years ago, I was on the emergency response team for an airline crash. Every person on the plane passed, including employees. Every employee was touched by the experience. It didn’t matter what their role was in the organization or whether they knew the people on the plane. That tragedy changed my life forever. As a HR pro, my takeaway was an understanding that grief and the need to heal impact each of us uniquely and we should never make assumptions about how people should process their emotions. We can offer help and support.