When tragedy strikes, it can be difficult to know how to help our employees. As leaders, many of us feel like we want to do something, but we’re not sure what to do and how to fit it into the workplace setting. In order to be able to support our employees during times of tragedy, we need to take a lesson from the healthcare system and triage our employees’ needs. Triaging happens when we assess what needs exist and which need to be addressed most urgently. We need to find out if anyone has a direct connection to the tragedy, if there are people dealing with secondary trauma, or those having a hard time coping.
Leaders within an organization should start by casting a net out to their employees to get an idea of how everyone is doing and what needs exist. Take a moment with your team to locate the most critical needs of your employees. Does anyone have a loved one who was impacted by this tragedy? If so, ensure that those individuals feel supported. Instead of just sending them home, ask how you can help. Are there any resources that they need that the organization can provide? Do your best to make sure that your employees who are suffering the most during times of tragedy do not feel alone. Employers can bring in mental health providers to work with employees during work hours, or have names of providers that you can refer your employees to if they reach out for more support. Keep a “toolkit” of these resources so you have them readily available when you need them.
Prioritize your organization’s workload.
What needs to be done immediately to keep the organization running, and what tasks can be put on hold for the time being so the more immediate needs of your employees can be addressed? How can you best use the company’s time to support your employees? It might help to give everyone the opportunity to get together and have a moment to talk amongst themselves. Check in with your people. Find out if everyone is doing okay, and if not, what they need from the organization.
Take care of yourself.
Do not forget about your own needs as a leader. You are likely feeling the effects of this tragedy as well, and it is important to take care of yourself so that you can be there to support your employees. Find someone that you trust to talk to about what you’re going through, whether it’s a trusted colleague, a friend, or a professional. It is important to take care of yourself so you can help your team take care of themselves as well.
Some of your employees may prefer to process what’s happened by themselves, and that’s okay too. Talking as a group may not be how they handle things, so they may prefer to go get a cup of coffee alone or just take a few minutes to be by themselves. Leaders can support these employees too by giving everyone the option of talking with the group or taking some time to themselves. Everyone processes and grieves differently, so it is key that we provide support for everyone, no matter what they need to do.
Keep checking in
If an employee is starting to seem like they’re “checking out” or not engaging like they used to, this is a prime opportunity for leaders to step up and help out. Ask your employee how they’re doing, and if they say “fine,” don’t take it at face value. Most of the time, when someone expresses that they’re doing fine, they’re really anything but. This is your opportunity as a leader to be a little bit tough and really dig in with that employee. Keep checking in and offering support until you are confident that they really are okay.
As a leader, there are several ways that you can be proactive in the event that tragedy strikes in the future. Make sure that your organization has open lines of communication, and I mean truly open. Your employees should always feel that they can reach out if they need support. Promoting overall wellness can also help build this supportive environment for your team. Encourage healthy eating, lunchtime walks outside, and opportunities for your employees to bond with one another.
At Flynn Barrett Consulting, we know that addressing tragedies as an organization can be difficult and something that you want to approach carefully, but when done right, it can provide your employees with the support they need to get through it. For help planning how your organization should both proactively and reactively handle tragedies, schedule a consultation!