Leaders set the tone when tragedy strikes

Mourners embrace outside the funeral service for Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, Friday, June 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Monday, Oct. 2, was a horrific day in America as reports tumbled forth about the senseless mass shooting in Las Vegas.

The event was big enough and so many people were affected that it was natural to wonder if someone you knew or one of their relatives was among those injured or 58 that were killed.

Unless your business operates in a bubble, incidents like the Las Vegas shooting, the Columbia shuttle explosion, Hurricane Katrina affects the workplace. It doesn’t have to be a national tragedy either. Coworkers and their family members die. Friends are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. These are all tough days at work.

If you are the leader of your organization, you have to remember that you set the tone. At that moment, the workplace is a support system to help everyone get through the day.

How do you set that tone? Thebalance.com had an excellent article on what to do:

  • Give some slack: Some people just can’t focus on work after hearing about a tragedy. Forcing them to do so just endangers the quality of their work. If people need some time to process, give them the time.
  • Check on personal involvement: If the tragedy personally impacts one of your workers, offer as much support as you can. That may mean extended time away from work or even relocation.
  • Give people information: Most people have access to information on their computers or telephones. Accept that this is a day they’ll be checking the news often.
  • Gather and talk: Bring lunch in and eat together so you can share grief and support. Check in on the workers who are silent.
  • Rally to a cause: In many cases, people want to help. Get your company involved in relief efforts. It could be signing up for a blood drive or doing a raffle to raise money for a devastated area.
  • Be available: Now is not the time to check out. Personal attention from a supervisor is perhaps most important in times of high stress. Walk through the workplace. Keep your door open. Be ready.
  • Make grief training part of the training program: There are tragedies big and small every day. Discuss grief, what are the stages of grief and how to deal with grief with your coworkers. If you work with someone long enough, at some point you or they are going to experience a tragedy. Make sure your company knows how to handle it.

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