Loss is part of life, but it can severely disrupt our ability to work. Intelligent leaders know they can help reports deal with grief and loss in meaningful ways. Business coaching can help leaders figure out ways to help stricken employees by offering support, being flexible, and understanding the nature of their problems.

Tragedy, suffering, and disruption are factors of life. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a divorce, or death, a loss can forever shape a person. Accepting loss as an inevitable part of life doesn’t make it any less painful or shocking, and we all react differently.

How can leaders help reports deal with grief? How can leadership coaching help leaders develop the attitude that allows them to provide optimal support to employees in this respect?


Intelligent leaders offer genuine support to grief-stricken employees. 

We should never underestimate the level of disruption grief can cause in one’s life. We relate differently to grief, either when going through it or seeing someone else struggle.

For those on the outside, avoidance is the easiest and, at the same time, the least optimal way to relate to someone’s grief.

Understanding the Nature of Grief

Leadership coaching and grief have one thing in common: they both change people. As an executive coaching specialist, I strive to effect positive change in people by helping them discover their strengths and weaknesses and providing an outside perspective on their leadership.

Grief profoundly alters people through the shock and sense of loss it entails. One may be eager to see a grief-stricken person “return to normal” as soon as possible. That “normal” no longer exists, however. Grief ushers in a new “normal.”

For some people, diving back into work hastens the healing process. For others, a sudden return to “normal” can have an adverse effect. Leaders should be sensitive to the psychological needs of grief-stricken employees and provide the support they need through their times of pain and strife.

The Surprising Consequences of Grief

Leaders must also understand how grief can cause reports to derail. Short-term emotional response behaviors (STERBs) can cause people to engage in behaviors they’d otherwise see as strange or illogical. Some may go on shopping sprees; others may grow addicted to social media. Employees displaying STERBs may be at work physically, but mentally, they’re elsewhere.

Such mental absenteeism can hurt performances and burden employees with behavioral consequences they must handle along with their grief.

Offering Support

From an executive coaching perspective, leaders should make it clear to reports that they’re available to provide support. Being proactive in this sense is important. Leaders should be the ones reaching out to make their availability known.


A temporary work buddy can provide direct support to distressed employees. 

In some cases, assigning a temporary work buddy to a grief-ridden employee can lend a concrete form to this support. Someone to double-check work, fill in for the employee at meetings, etc., can be beneficial for all parties involved. A well-instructed work buddy can spot early signs of STERBs (like showing up for work exceedingly early) and alert the leader.

Being Extra Flexible

If there’s ever a time for leaders to be flexible in their relations with workers, helping a report cope with grief is that time.

Flexibility about the person’s workload and schedule is a sign of caring. Signaling to the affected parties they can take time off if need be also helps speed up healing and builds loyalty.

Patience is of the Essence

We all process grief differently. Some people need more time and space to handle it than others. Knowingly or subconsciously, we all appreciate our employers giving us time and space to heal.

Securing Access to Resources

Intelligent leaders know that as part of a supportive work environment, they can offer grief-ridden personnel resources like information on counseling services and employee assistance programs that can help reports hasten their recovery.

Having a strong, capable, and healthy workforce should be the top priority of every organization. From the perspective of business coaching, a physically and mentally healthy workforce is an indispensable prerequisite for successful scaling. Intelligent leaders understand that by taking care of their employees, they help their people and organizations improve and thrive.


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