DENVER -- It’s unfortunate to say I’m no stranger to tragedy.
As most of you know, there was a mass shooting Friday at a movie theater only miles from the home office of BenefitsPro. The community, understandably, is shaken and distraught.
For me, the process of coping is all too familiar. I grew up in Colorado, not far from Columbine High School, and in 1999 I witnessed friends and community members struggle after the tragedy there.
Years later, in 2010, a man walked onto a local middle school campus in Littleton and began shooting. He was tackled by a brave teacher, but still managed to shoot two students.
Then last year, on the anniversary of Columbine, a man was arrested for planting a bomb at a mall close to the school – a mall I frequently visit and worked at during my sophomore year of college.
Events like this make people feel vulnerable, and in the workplace, the grief can be detrimental - for morale, productivity, absenteeism, and the resulting loss of revenue. According to The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation, grief incidences cost businesses $75 billion. Grief comes in several forms, from financial and personal stress to the loss of a loved one.
And, as I’ve seen in cases like the Aurora shooting, the devastation is widespread, having both a direct and indirect impact.
When such an event happens, employees and employers focus on how they can return to some sort of normalcy, and how to deal with the fear and anxiety that follows. Employers wonder what they can do to help, how they can facilitate the recovery process and how they can foster a healing environment for their workers.
At a Red Robin near the movie theater, co-workers are struggling with the death of one of their own, as well as seven others who were hurt. Human resource expert Susan Heathfield has 11 tips for managers and HR professionals to help their employees deal with tragedy:
- Make sure people are safe – “If the incident is happening in your workplace, make certain people are safe before you do anything else.”
- Cut people some slack – “If you expect them to continue working, people will make errors and mistakes because they are distracted by the events or information.”
- Assess the personal involvement of employees – “If the tragedy impacts an individual personally, offer release time, support, a ride, help obtaining information, and anything else the individual appears to need.”
- Give people information – “Information helps people process the events. Turn on radios, broadcast breaking news over your speaker system and recognize that people will call friends and acquaintances to share information and compare notes.”
- Provide places to gather and talk – “Many people talk incessantly during a tragic event; others suffer silently. You will want to draw your silent people out when possible. Central gatherings will help.”
- Schedule a meeting to share information – “The more legitimate information people have, the less likely they are to depend on rumors, the less time they spend seeking information.”
- Give people something to do to help – “In times of sorrow, when people draw together for sustenance, many want something to do to help solve the problem or to ease the situation.”
- Make managers and HR staff available – “Supervisors and HR staff members are critical company members during tragedy. In a study done years ago by the American Psychological Association, employees overwhelmingly listed personal attention from the supervisor as one of the most rewarding aspects of work.”
- Offer employee assistance – “If your company has an Employee Assistance Program or counseling available via your health plan, make sure employees know it is available for people who need it. Some programs offer counseling in the workplace. Explore possibilities.”
- Be prepared – “Every organization needs a disaster plan... All employees should be trained in the specifics of the plan. Prepare people about what actions to take if they are confronted with potential injury in the workplace.”
- Make grief training part of your training program – “All employees should be trained in the specifics of the plan. Prepare people about what actions to take if they are confronted with potential injury in the workplace.”
To read the full Heathfield article, click here.