Last week, we lost a team member and friend to cancer. It was a sudden and painful loss for all who knew her and perhaps understandably, it has made writing an HR post about any other topic this week to be impossible.
Unfortunately, dealing with the serious illness or the passing of a colleague is something which many workplaces have to deal with. It differs greatly from coping with such a situation involving a family member or a personal friend where we are expected to grieve and perhaps to take some time off as our loss will be expected to be great. In these situations, work normally provides a means to try to forget about the other things we are going through in our personal lives. When the difficult issue or loss is ever-present though because it involves someone at work and there is still a business to run, it can be all the more complicated. Clients still need to be taken care of, goods still have to go out and the business must still flourish but it is tough.
When colleagues are struggling with a serious illness, although we can look out for them and make adjustments where needed, every situation and individual is different. Some people will want to talk openly about what they are going through, some will not. Some people may want or need time off, some will not. Some will want to carry on ‘as normal’ for as long as they possibly can and some will not. It is impossible to know in advance and so important to not pre-judge and where possible, to respect the employee’s wishes. Similarly, should their illness progress or they lose their battle, the impact will be felt greatly by everyone who knew them at work and there will be many coping mechanisms on display because we all deal with these matters in our own way.
With serious illnesses such as cancer, it is their indiscriminate nature which is particularly difficult for a business to plan for and deal with. However, it is highly probable that it is a situation which you will at some time be faced with and which with some foresight, you can help others to cope with too. Having a rigid policy in place would not serve anyone well but thinking through some ways in which to support those who are seriously ill would be helpful. Similarly, considering your approach to bereavement in the workplace may also be worthwhile.
At Navigator, we are at the very start of the process of coming to terms with our loss. We know we still have some difficult days ahead as Fran will be dearly missed. However, we intend to pull together to help each other cope and continue to honour Fran in all that we do, to ensure that her hard work was not in vain.
Our thanks at this time to everyone who has taken the opportunity to send us messages of condolence and our thoughts are with Fran’s family at this difficult time.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Wendy Meiklejohn.