Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

Jessica was the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of a small non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion in Bos­ton when her 24-year-old col­league, Ellen, be­came gravely ill. Af­ter three months in the hos­pi­tal, Ellen passed away. “She was the key­stone of our or­gan­i­sa­tion, and we were a tight-knit group,” Jessica says. There were 15 peo­ple who worked in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Ellen died right be­fore the of­fice closed for the win­ter hol­i­days, and over the break, Jessica worked with the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor to come up with a plan for the staff ’s re­turn. “We knew this was go­ing to be dev­as­tat­ing. We had lots of con­ver­sa­tions about what the right ex­pec­ta­tions were, how we should talk about the sit­u­a­tion and how we should sup­port peo­ple,” Jessica says.

When peo­ple re­turned to work, the at­mos­phere was “dark”. “Ev­ery sin­gle per­son – men and women – at some point came into my of­fice, sat in my chair and cried,” Jessica says. But she never tried to stem the tears. “Peo­ple have to fall apart be­fore they can pull them­selves back to­gether. Un­less you give peo­ple space to grieve, it will leak out in other ways.”

She met with staff mem­bers in­di­vid­u­ally to help them process their grief and to make a work plan go­ing for­ward. “Peo­ple were won­der­ing what to do: Do we work or not work?” she says. Jessica and the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor told peo­ple to do what they could. “We wanted peo­ple to come in and do their best.” In ad­di­tion to the in­di­vid­ual meet­ings, they also got to­gether ev­ery morn­ing to check in as a group. This gave peo­ple room to ex­press what they were go­ing through and to con­nect with oth­ers. They did this for two weeks and then moved the meet­ing to once a month. “Even­tu­ally it mor­phed into a gen­eral meet­ing where we checked in about things out­side

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