Coping with grief at work

Dealing with grief is incredibly difficult but how can we approach grief in the workplace?

Grief is a subject which I’ve been fortunate enough not to encounter for many years, that was up until recently when our family tragically lost someone we never imagined we would.

Those close to me are currently facing one of the most awful scenarios you could possibly imagine, their pain and loss is something that no one should have to face. I have been supporting the family a lot during this awful time and will continue to do so over the coming months and years. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those who helped us publically search and those who sent messages of support.

Sadly my family are not alone, so many other families are going through hard times; losing loved ones to terminal illnesses, people who’s relatives are missing and whilst the age old saying “when you turn up at work you leave your personal life at the door” is used all too often the reality is very different.

The only way to describe grief without feeling it yourself is “raw”.

It begs many questions, why don’t we talk more about when a life ends in the same way that we would when a new life begins? Should we stop treading on egg shells and support people when they need it the most head on?

Grief is not easy to deal with as it is such a sensitive subject that has two distinct factors:

  1. People who have suffered loss may not want to talk about it
  2. Managers/employers are unsure on the best approach

It is all well and good enforcing a company policy on bereavement leave, but when the situation arises is the policy fit for purpose? is it flexible? does it provide adequate support and consideration to the on-going effects? are managers adequately equipped and understand it?

Grief can impact of every element of the affected employees life, anxiety and stress are common and this can impact significantly on their working environment. Therefore, employers need to assess the situation carefully upon the employees return to work, by being aware of the support offered, this can minimise the anxiety  and stress they may be experiencing.

It’s often asked if close team members should be made aware of the situation, I have read horror stories where colleagues have unknowingly asked a bereaved employee if they’d been on holiday. These situations can easily be avoided when holding open and empathetic conversations with the employee and being lead by them.

Long term effects of grief can escalate into mental health difficulties, anxiety or depression so it is important to be guided by the employee in terms of how much support they need. Understandably it is a difficult balance to get right as you want to support in everyway you can but you also don’t want to smother them either, so just simply letting them know that you’re there for them and maintaining a good level of communication will allow that support without intrusion.

In 2014 ACAS published their guidelines on how to deal with bereavement at work in a best practice format so that employers have an increased understanding around the long term effects so they can support the employee and workforce as part of their working practices. Their guide can be found here.

Grief is so much more than a policy. Moving on is the most difficult part.

What do you see your future role as?

After attending last Saturday’s CIPD MAP Student Conference I have been asking this very question myself. Throughout my career I have been a generalist, there is nothing wrong with this at all and to be honest a specialist route is one that I don’t think would suit me but it’s never something I would rule out, I just like variety.

It’s easy to say I’m going to work at Google and if you end up there is great but for many people the HR career journey has more plot twists than an episode of Coronation Street so yes you may want to work at Google, but the important part is the journey you take to secure your dream job. Consideration should always be given to career flexibility to avoid us becoming complacent and gain varying experience but we should be mindful of not stagnating our careers so it is a very complex balancing act but it can have greater impacts on our confidence if the decisions we make are the wrong ones.

When we are recruiting, if someone has moved roles a few times, they’re open to being negatively labelled as a “job hopper” but by being exposed to the thoughts of HR peers, isn’t it about time businesses adapted positively and accept that this could potentially be a view into the future of work? After speaking with fellow millennials, we often question is it a situation where an employer doesn’t set out the reality of their organisations then they risk quickly disengaging and failing to retain this group? It’s also not a case of simply recruit, see how it turns out and replace; this only starts a constant spiral so both employer and potential employee have a vested interest to set out clear expectations at the start of the relationship to avoid any “empty promises” which could then see a struggle to retain employees for the long term. In addition to this, it is not only the employee that will be disheartened, there are long terms business risks. If organisations fail to put into place a clearly defined succession plan and engage with modern changes then they simply cannot evolve by utlising millennial talent to develop their business, it has to be a joined up process, a balance between existing values married to modern values to remain competitive and recruit and retain the best talent.

Let’s consider this on a personal level; what happens if you find yourself in a position where you’re not enjoying your role (for whatever reason that may be). You are not going to be performing to the best of your ability and on the other hand your employer will not be seeing the standards of performance that they expect so a succession plan or career path is an essential tool to attract and retain the talent for the organisation. It’s not a case of one size fits all because what works for millennials will not necessarily work for those who have been in the organization for a substantial amount of time. Loyalty to organisations seems to be a rarer vision in today’s faster paced work environments which is a shame as it has worked successfully for various such as manufacturing; product knowledge, process and practicality go hand in hand, one simply cannot work without the other so industries like this are starting to see skills gaps emerging at an alarming rate which will require the knowledge and skill set to pass on to future generations.

So how does this all impact your decision making when it comes to you setting your career path? When considering your next move it is important to consider these things:

  1. What kind of HR professional do you see yourself as? Don’t jump on the trend bandwagon, find the path that is right for you and research the books out of it, ensure it’s right for you before you go for it, don’t just settle!
  2. When applying for jobs, research the organisation you are going into, look into their annual reports, google them to see how they are perceived as an employer, what they do to engage their employees etc. Find the answers to the questions that matter the most to you
  3. Trust your gut instinct – does the decision you are making feel right for you? I remember turning down a really amazing job opportunity at a highly sought after employer but every fiber in me said “don’t do it” and it turns out that I was right to call the decision I did, no regrets
  4. The age old question; where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? Make sure you set out that plan to manage employers expectations and also your own to avoid disappointment, we are our own harshest critics and whilst the path to a good career isn’t always rosey, so make sure you are prepared for the occasional hiccups, learn from it, don’t tarnish yourself with negativity
  5. Review your own performance regularly, are you meeting your own expectations, are you on track to where you want to be, are there any development points to help you along the way?

Regardless of if your future lays with your current employer or a future employer, all I know is that the career journey is what you make it so don’t settle, enjoy the plot twists and remember to make the best of it.

The future is bright and not all heroes wear capes… The key points from MAP Student Conference

What – a – day! So much to say in one short blog post but I’ll give it my best shot! Firstly, I just wanted to say it was lovely to meet so many people, thank you for taking time to speak to me, it was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you had a great time today.

Today’s student conference was held at Aston University and was focussed upon the future of work, thinking about options to consider to structure your career and ultimately what you need to do to get there.

“You have one career, (unless you believe in reincarnation) so make the most of it”

David D’Souza

After welcoming the delegates and getting into the swing of the day we first heard from David D’Souza – (you’ll be hearing his name a lot in this post!) who talked all things Superman and Jurassic Park and the lessons from this were that just because that things are done in a certain way, it doesn’t make a compelling reason for continuing to do things that way. Start looking at things differently and start today, think of the different outcomes that could be and determine the type of HR professional that you want to be. He finished with a line that really resonated around the room – “you have one career, (unless you believe in reincarnation) so make the most of it”.

“The world of work is changing, don’t jump on the trend bandwagon”

Dr Richard MacKinnon

We swiftly moved into an insightful keynote with Dr Richard MacKinnon who begged the question “is it worth considering the future of anything these days” referring to the appointment of President Trump and Brexit and he’s right, if we were reading these headlines 10 years ago, we would have thought that the world had gone mad! But it’s true, our inability to predict the future from all aspects; technological, environmental or in a work capacity, we as humans are terrible at predicting the future and that is simply human nature.

He emphasised that there are a lot of myths in the workplace, be it about people, situations and others in our organisations so it’s about identifying those myths and challenging them whilst thinking that just because others are doing it, it doesn’t mean that you should. For example technology at work, just because it exists, it doesn’t mean that you have to implement it, don’t get preoccupied with future technology before you deal with the issues here in the present day.

Dr MacKinnon’s speech really was fascinating and he encouraged the room to research science at work; there is a wealth of opportunity to learn and develop yourself by using free papers and simply researching into these subjects.

I would recommend anyone to look at his work, you can follow him on Twitter @WorkLifePsych or view his website here: www.worklifepsych.com it’s perfect for those of you who wanted further information on the world of work from a psychology perspective.

Whilst there was a lot of learning going on, behind the scenes a hitch lightening us of two speakers had happened, our hero of the day in the form of David D’Souza (minus a cape) filled in for two sessions – engagement and digital recruitment proving that even when disaster strikes, the team handled it brilliantly so thank you to David and the MAP team for allowing the show to go on with no further hiccups.

Other breakout sessions including an employment law update; there are plenty of those lurking at the moment! Business analytics with National Grid and how to secure a role in HR/LD career pit stop session. To summarise there’s a lot of things to consider when looking at a career in the profession these days – and you thought a career in HR/LD was about tea and biscuits!

We concluded the day with a panel Q&A with Dr Richard MacKinnon, Tiffany Poeppelman and Carole Carson to discuss their experiences and career highlights, it’s safe to say that the whole room took something away with them in this piece; some were inspired, others motivated and others were considering which career path they would choose to take as all three panellists have different backgrounds proving that we are not all made for the same HR/LD shaped hole!

“Your actions define how people perceive you”

Tiffany Poeppelman

The closing keynote from Tiffany Poeppelman from Linked In was absolutely the highlight of my day as it helped me with an area I feel personally that I have been struggling with of late; Building your own brand through social media and networking. With the activities I’ve been working on of late, since ACE  I had not blogged very much and have let my Twitter feed fall behind a little, whilst Twitter is back in full swing with the events coverage I’m doing, my Linked In profile was in need of a refresh.

There was so much useful information and tips but these are her five top things that you should do to enhance your Linked In profile:

  1. Complete and enhance your profile
  2. Connect and grow your network
  3. Join 2 or 3 relevant networking groups
  4. Follow companies, industries and people who interest you
  5. Be an active collaborator – share, update your status, discuss and post. What do you give to your network?

Understandably there is a lot of food for thought to take away from today’s conference and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I have and I hope to see you at another CIPD event soon. Finally a big thank you to Eleanor Lloyd-Jones for allowing me to Tweet and blog at the event, it’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of.

 

 

MAP Student Conference 2017 – T-minus 13 hours… and counting!

Aston University

We’re fast approaching the Midlands Area Partnership student conference at Aston University and the organisers cannot wait to meet, greet and network with everyone attending!

Ok so there is a heck of a lot to get through in just one day so what actually goes on prior to the event? This blog post is to fill in all the details to highlight exactly how much work goes into making these events a success.

First of all there is a lot of organising to do, budgeting, sourcing an appropriate venue, guest speakers to discuss relevant topics, catering (well of course! If you’re giving up a Saturday you need a vast amount of coffee, tea and food to keep those brains engaged!). Then there’s the task of confirming the attendees, any dietary requirements that they may have and any access requests to the venue so that everyone can enjoy the event.

The organisers will be at the venue very early on the morning of the event to conduct final checks and to ensure everything is set up in time for the delegates to arrive, they are of course our guests!

This is just a short burst of what happens behind the scenes, the day itself is much more fast paced, so this year there will be just half an hour to book in all 200 attendees between 9:00-9:30am and waiting to greet you will be Nic, Gill, Max and Janice so make sure this is your first point of contact.

As this event is completely sold out, we don’t want those who were unable to attend missing out so myself, Amy and Priya will be hosting a mini blog squad reunion so pop over and see us as we’ll be gathering the information from our speakers, talking to as many people as possible to gather your thoughts on the event but also you can ask us anything, we’re here to highlight the key topics at the event.

Finally we can then hand over to the speakers, this year we have a welcome address from David D’Souza and an opening keynote from Dr Richard MacKinnon before moving into the breakout sessions which consist of relevant topics in today’s HR world.

One thing I am really looking forward to is the HRD Panel at 14:20pm with Dr Richard MacKinnon, Simon Lewis and Carol Carson so make sure you don’t miss it!

Finally there’s the closing keynote from Tiffany Poeppelman, a really passionate organisational psychologist so this is something I’m particularly excited about attending for so I’ll be quoting from her a lot on Twitter.

In advance of the event, a huge thank you to the CIPD, Midlands Area Partnership, our fantastic speakers, organisers, volunteers, Aston University and personal thanks goes to Eleanor Lloyd-Jones for making this event happen.

I’m off to watch the rugby now and will see you all bright and early tomorrow. Don’t forget to pop over and see me at the Northamptonshire Branch stand after lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2017

Inspirational, motivational, encouraging, supportive, collaborative, united.

Today is International Women’s Day 2017 and the above words are what I think of when it comes to this day every year and after seeing the bundles of support throughout my social media channels,  I couldn’t be prouder to be a woman today.

“There is no limit to what we, as women can accomplish”

Michelle Obama

James Brown famously sang “this is a man’s world”, and I think he wasn’t far from the truth; however, we are starting to see the positive changes that so many have fought tirelessly to see. Equal rights, equal pay and more importantly support to make these changes happen. There are exciting times ahead but there is still much more to be done. We are starting to see changes in employment law with Gender Pay Gap Reporting and opportunities with the Apprentice Levy which will allow so many people the opportunity to start their journey to their dream career regardless of age or gender.

The Suffragettes marched through the streets of London in 1915 to campaign for equal pay and for the right to vote, it’s important that as women we do not take what they campaigned for as a given right, they were determined to make a change and they did, this couldn’t be any more prominent in this year’s IWD motto Be Bold For Change.

Today we are fortunate to be surrounded by strong and positive female influences ranging from athletes and entrepreneurs right through to business leaders and there is something we can learn from every one of them. So today take time to listen more and understand the direction that this could take future generations, today is so much more than wearing a t-shirt and saying things only to be forgotten about tomorrow; it’s a movement, it’s about actions and making the world a better place, one step at a time.

I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without the women in my life and those who have helped shape my career, these fantastic ladies all know who they are and I tell them all the time! Consider those who have helped you get to where you are, can you pass your support on to others? It’s easy to forget when you’re working the 9-5 but these small changes and support can make a huge difference. Be part of that change.

I’m very lucky to be from a family that have empowered and inspired me to be the best that I can be, I have a strong mum, supportive sister, a hard working brother and a very proud father and I just wanted to take a moment to say how truly grateful I am to have them. I wouldn’t be where I am now without their love, understanding and support.

However you’re celebrating IWD, enjoy it and have a fantastic day.