ChaptertOO Talent and Business Consulting
Grief and What Every Leader Needs to Get Right

Grief knows no expiration date; it accompanies us throughout life, regardless of time or circumstance. Why is this so top of mind today? Well, it marks the 4th anniversary of the death of a very close friend, Rhonda, who died from cancer.  Four years later, the pain and grief of that loss still floats around, waxing and waning sometimes at the most unexpected times.

In the context of the workplace, do leaders and organizations have a duty to support their employees through grief? So glad you’re curious, because in honor of Rhonda – brilliant, amazing, funny, the personification of kindness, and beyond talented – we’ll explore grief and examine what workplaces can do to better support those grieving. This topic is one Rhonda was deeply passionate about as she faced the realities of her own mortality and the impact her passing would have on those of us she left behind.

What’s an adequate amount of time to grieve, and does grief have different rules based on its root? Grief defies a predetermined timeline or set of rules; it is a winding journey marked by moments of sadness and unexpected emotions. Each person’s experience with grief is unique, shaped by the nature of their loss and their individual coping mechanisms. Whether grief stems from the loss of a loved one, organizational challenges, or personal hardships, its impact in the workplace is undeniable.

According to a recent article by Forbes, “How Companies and Managers Can Support Employees Experiencing Grief,” many organizations fall short in providing adequate support to grieving employees. In fact, the article states that 60% of employers only offer up to three bereavement days. This highlights the need for organizations to reassess their policies and adopt more comprehensive approaches to supporting employees through grief.

Which brings us to the basis of this discussion: What role do organizations play in supporting employees through grief, and what does that have to do with organizational culture? This is where the role of leaders and organizations in this process becomes crucial, something Rhonda spoke at length about because she was keenly aware that for those of us she would be leaving behind, we would need support in the days, weeks, and months that would follow.

Acknowledging the reality of grief within organizational settings is a crucial first step. According to the aforementioned Forbes article, it’s crucial for companies to take a flexible approach where possible and adopt policies that acknowledge the diverse nature of grief. Rebecca Soffer, author of The Modern Loss Handbook and co-founder of Modern Loss, who was interviewed for the article, emphasizes that employers should create policies that recognize any loss that is real to the employee.

Leaders have the power to create environments that prioritize the well-being of their employees, fostering cultures of compassion and empathy. This fostering must go beyond offering condolences or providing basic bereavement leave; it involves being inclusive and understanding, recognizing that grief manifests differently for each individual and that processing and support will not be a one-size-fits-all model. Organizations leading the pack in this area understand that prioritizing the overall well-being of employees and creating a culture of compassion, empathy, and understanding is the only way forward. Those organizations aren’t asking people to justify the ‘why’ or ‘who’ behind their grief, and saying ‘I need help’ is celebrated instead of being looked at as a sign of weakness or a lack of ‘resilience’ (something we’ve written about, here).

An organization willingly modeling understanding is a valuable one. Leaders who lead by example, who aren’t afraid to show vulnerability, and who allow those around them to sit in their humanity, arguably have the trust and loyalty of those they lead. This is the type of workplace that organizations should strive to cultivate—a place where humanity is valued as much as productivity, and where employees are supported not just as workers, but as whole individuals with complex emotions and experiences.


Organizational culture will always be measured by how you treat and support your people!

And for those always in need of the ROI, supporting employees through grief isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also good for business. Studies have shown that organizations with compassionate cultures have higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. By prioritizing the well-being of their employees and creating environments where grief is acknowledged and supported, organizations can not only enhance their bottom line but also make a meaningful difference in the lives of their employees.