During the 2009 Thanksgiving season, my son Adam and I were talking about the fun we had when he was younger, especially backpacking. He mentioned he would love to take a weeklong trip, but without hesitation he said I would never be able to make it, that I was too heavy and probably would have a heart attack! That hit me pretty hard. I also felt an obligation to lead a healthy lifestyle as a Vice President of Human Resources. It is somewhat hypocritical to promote health and wellness to reduce medical expenses, and at the same time be obese! Realizing I was embarrassingly out of shape for a 42 year old, I made a commitment to change my lifestyle.
I started exercising, changed my diet based on Eating for Life by Bill Phillips, and spent time reflecting on my relationship with Christ.
My company provides HR support services to organizations with fifty or more employees. Typically, the organizations we support do not need a VP or Director of HR full time, but greatly benefit from having access to HR expertise consistently, perhaps a few times a month. I use my 20-plus years in HR at both Fortune and smaller sized companies to help develop for them strong, positive-minded HR practices. I have clients throughout Central Pennsylvania and we are expanding into other parts of the U.S.
What is workplace grief and how common is it?
It is more common than most may realize. Many employees are already bearing the staggering burden of navigating the pressures of a weak global economy, political turmoil and personal financial hardships. Add to that the fact that our population is aging. Many organizations have employees whose loved ones are elderly. So, when faced with a death in the family, it is often the last straw, completely breaking the employee down emotionally.
How would you advise a grieving employee?
This is an excellent question because employers should approach this from two perspectives, and prepare by having both a preventative and reactionary standpoint.
First, take a preventive approach by not waiting for it to happen before deciding how to deal with it. If you are a manager or a leader in an organization, take the initiative now to talk with HR and develop a strategy on how to handle such a situation. Not every department manager is comfortable with or capable of assisting an employee who’s dealing with grief. Identify two or three key people in your organization who will step in to help (and whom you will subsequently arrange to have trained to cope with the various situations and cultures in order to be prepared to react). Another alternative would be to retain the services of a chaplain to assist in these types of situations. Several of my clients use chaplain and have found this to be successful.
From the reactionary perspective, these same two or three people that you’ve chosen within your organization will have been trained and should be prepared as to how they will relate to the person suffering grief. In the Jewish culture, for example, it is common for people to visit a friend’s home when they lose a loved one and just sit with them, saying nothing. Sometimes just being there with someone shows you care. It is important to know that just being there for your employees, rather than avoiding the uncomfortable situation, can prove helpful.
How would you advise supervisors and colleagues to interact with a grieving co-worker?
The best advice is to not change anything and keep the routine as normal as possible. I would suggest that the manager calls all the employees together and asks that anyone who has a relationship with the grieving employee feel free to offer condolences. Those who don’t should not feel obligated, it can look phony and superficial to the grieving employee.
How can grieving and loss affect job performance?
Oftentimes, employees may have attendance issues or slight decreases in performance after the death of a loved one. It is important to keep the communication consistent and constant with the employees. Letting them know you care about their personal situation, but also giving them continued feedback, can go a long way. Offering assistance is a great way to show you care — offer a solution but also set the bar. Use language like, “I realize it is hard getting back into the swing of things, but we need your performance for the Team’s objectives. Can I get you some help from a co-worker?
Any closing comments?
Yes. Thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective with your readers. Death is an inevitable part of living; we must always be prepared for it. The best preparation is making sure you have staff that is prepared to offer empathy in a time of loss. Let’s hope your readers will not need to employ this advice in 2012!
Mark Griffin, of In His Name HR. In His Name HR provides human resource consulting for small- and medium-sized organizations. Mark has served in the US Air Force, has extensive educational credentials, including a BA in HR, an MBA, and several Executive Education certifications from the University of Michigan. In addition to serving as VP of Human Resources for an international agricultural equipment manufacturer, Mark has also worked in a variety of HR leadership roles for Fortune companies, such as Merck, Kodak and Quaker Oats, as well as privately held and employee-owned companies, such as Woolrich and Townsends.
I have always worked in small HR departments where I am one of 2-3 staff members, wearing multiple hats and juggling competing priorities all day, every day. I am generally orderly and mindful in my work and in my record-keeping. That is an essential skill in this profession where historical data can be called upon at any time for analytics or legal scrutiny. When my staff asks me how I keep it all together and remember to start, track and finish all these tasks, I jokingly say “I don’t remember anything. I just do what the Outlook reminders tell me to do.”
Still, there are times when I sit at my desk and look at the piles, issues and emails that all need to be addressed and I have no idea where to start or how to get it all done! When that happens, I take a deep breath, pull out a piece of paper and make a list.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NKJV) – “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time”
Written plans set priorities and give focus. Once you have dumped your brain and written down everything, you can organize the list according to what is most urgent and important. You may be able to get help or delegate tasks. You may find that there are items that can be postponed or removed altogether. You may find tasks that can be merged together. However, when thoughts are just rolling around in your mind and piles of work are all around, you have no idea of any of these things! Deadlines get missed and important items get forgotten. This is not what God would have for us. God wants us to be productive and meet needs through our work (Titus 3:14). Being deliberate and logical in our work can help us achieve this.
Written plans make it easier to measure effectiveness. When you maintain a list of to-do items or another type of action plan, it is easy to see not only what needs doing but also what has been done. There is a great feeling that comes from conquering tasks on your list (Proverbs 13:9). It gives us a sense of accomplishment that can help keep us motivated to continue working hard in pursuit of our goals (Galatians 6:9).
There are two clear pitfalls to avoid in when preparing the lists and plans for our work.
Complicated, confusing objectives. The Scripture calls for us to make things “plain” so our plan is easy to follow. Keep things clear and concise.
Lengthy, lofty outline. The Scripture calls for us to create plans for “an appointed time.” This is why long lists without clear time limits are ineffective. Keep things specific and finite.
Whether it is a strategic plan for the organization, a meeting agenda or to-do reminders for the day – the ability to create and follow a written plan is critical to consistent performance and long-term achievement. God wants us to be effective in our work. He also wants us to be organized and methodical. And when we look to Him for strength and guidance through prayer and meditation, we can rest assured that He will direct and keep us on a path to success (Proverbs 3:1-8).
Buzz Rooney is a practicing HR Professional with over a decade of experience in the production, manufacturing and retail industries. She has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies with a focus on Organizational Communication and Leadership as well as a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management.
As a manager and HR professional, I encounter a lot of foolishness and hatefulness in the workplace. Passive-aggressive behavior, back-stabbing, finger-pointing, laziness, discrimination, bullying and flagrant insubordination are all too real! This is part of the reason I enjoy working in HR. I get to help find justice for wronged individuals; I get to help train and develop other managers to overcome these same issues and prevent them for the future.
There are times, however, when the responsibility to protect the employer I work for and mitigate potential liability feels like it clashes with my faith. There are times where I feel like a hitman sent to take out a pesky adversary like something out of mobster film. Terminating employees doesn’t feel good. Negotiating ‘no-fault’ separation agreements doesn’t feel good. Denying employee requests doesn’t feel good.
So what do I do about it? Why do I keep going to work and doing this stuff every day?! How have I managed to stay in this career for almost 15 years?!?
I adhere to the rules and the spirit in which they were intended.
NLT Romans 15:4 – “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning”
In the workplace, this verse of Scripture applies to the policies, procedures, training documents, handbooks and manuals. These governing documents are the ideal way for the business of the workplaces to be conducted. The documents are typically not written with the intention of causing hurt, harm, danger or confusion. On the contrary, they are written to be consistent, effective, efficient and fair in our workplace dealings. They are written for our learning.
Therefore, I choose to believe the processes and practices that derive from them are also intended for the good of the people in our workplaces. I see God in the order which comes from enforcing and upholding the standards set forth in policies, procedures, training documents, handbooks and manuals. So I focus on that as I handle the challenges which come my way (Philippians 4:8).
When someone violates regulations that are intended for good, that person is out of order and should be corrected. When someone is violated by someone who misused regulations to cause harm, there is a responsibility to correct that also. But that may not necessarily mean the wronged individual can keep working. And it may mean more than just a warning for the person who broke the rules. It may mean letting people go. And, no matter how often you do it, that never gets easier – especially in these times where our economy is suffering and unemployment is so high!
In those moments, I focus on the fact that God is able. He provides for me and He protects me. And I know He does the same for others! I remember that all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28) and what may seem like a terrible outcome could be part of God’s plan to bring about good things in the future (Genesis 50:20). And I pray before, during and after major decisions for His will to be done, even when it doesn’t feel good to me and/or when I don’t understand.
My hope is that this is enough. Amen.
Buzz Rooney is a practicing HR Professional with over a decade of experience in the production, manufacturing and retail industries. She has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies with a focus on Organizational Communication and Leadership as well as a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management. Buzz is also a blogger and part-time HR consultant. Read more of her writings, connect and contact her at www.thebuzzonhr.com
I have had the honor of knowing Denny Smith for several years. Denny was instrumental in starting the Career Network at LCBC Church, where he recruited me to be a leader at its inception. It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to get to know Denny, not only from a business and Ministry standpoint, but from a personal perspective as well.
I am privileged to share with you the book Denny inked in 2009, Outplace:Career Change, Real World Stories, Real World Answers. For a variety of reasons, Denny has decided to distribute his book free of charge rather than through a publisher. This book will be a blessing to many, especially those who, like me, have attempted to navigate through a traumatic job loss without a relationship with Christ.
Denny’s book hits home with me because of my own 2003 experience, losing my job through no fault of my own. This left me driving home to a house I could not afford, in a neighborhood where I did not even know my neighbors because my priorities had been bound by work. It was only until I humbled myself and accepted a relationship with Christ that I pulled myself out of the pit and developed myself to the potential God had instilled in me at birth.
I hope you enjoy reading Denny’s book as I did. It provides encouragement and outlines a hope and a future to all job loss victims. If this book changes one life with Christ, it has met Denny’s objective.
Jeremiah 29:11(NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I believe that, in today’s tumultuous business times, we must remain diligent in our obligations as Christian business leaders. Now, more than ever, Christian Business leaders must acknowledge that employees want, need and crave an environment in which they can be not only productive but trust that their leadership is attempting to provide them and their family stability, a “hope and a future.”
We must remain diligent in our obligations as Christian business leaders.
So what about you business leaders? What are you doing to demonstrate to your employees that you are setting the foundation for tomorrow’s growth? Are you giving them hope and a future? If you do this, if you honor your employees by properly managing your businesses and lighting a path to their future, you will be creating a “Kingdom Minded” company.”
What have you witnessed in your workplace that has created a culture of creativity, inclusiveness and productivity? Please share your thoughts and help our community learn from your experiences.
Malachi 3:5 (NIV) “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
Wow! In this passage you can hear God’s disapproval of those who cheat their employees of wages, but God categorizes it at the level of sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers! How many company executives who have cheated their people probably dismissed their act as harmless?
On the surface, one may surmise that “wages” are defined as cash for hours worked. However, wages from today’s human resources perspective takes on a far greater meaning than just cash. What about your employees’ medical benefits? Their retirement plans, and education reimbursements? What about your support of them in the communities in which they volunteer? Do you look at your employees and see the bigger wage picture? Or do you look at them in distaste and dismiss them as mere “business cost?”
Respect your employees and be rewarded
Studies and surveys have proven that, when employees know they are being treated fairly, they will go the extra mile. When employees recognize that leadership and ownership think of them first, they will think of the leaders and owners first. You see, it really is simple: people reflect their leadership. Respect your employees’ financial futures, and you can expect to be rewarded by your employees’ productivity and devotion. If you respect your employees, if you reflect Christ by making them and their families your company’s financial priority by sharing your company’s prosperity with them, you are helping to build a “Kingdom Minded” company.
Please share with our reader community. Please leave a few comments about a time when you worked for a leader who really valued you. Not just valued you from a financial perspective, but valued your personality, displayed an interest in your family and showed a genuine interest in your future. What traits did that leader demonstrate? How did this leader demonstrate respect for you? What do you do now as a leader to show respect for your people? What enhancements have you taken part in to make your workplace welcoming?
“Do It” Amazing speech by Art Williams on winning in business. Art integrates all the principles of building a “Kingdom Minded” company into his presentation. These are all the principles we have developed into our model in which we help companies build high performing organizations by proper utilization of their Human Resources programs and practices. To be an achiever you must have Integrity, People Abilities and Character.
Art is just so tired of “fence sitters and mealy mouths.”
Art advocates getting excited! You must be excited to win! You must not be a crybaby! Be enthusiastic, positive and tough! Although recorded in 1987, Art’s words are applicable now more than ever. Enjoy Art’s inspiration and energy and his down home style of delivery. Art Williams –
Romans 12:8 (NIV) “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. “
Over the past several weeks I have encountered a variety of circumstances where I have witnessed extreme cases of generosity. These were situations where someone deliberately went out of their way to help a random “somebody” Not a friend or a relative but someone they did not know at all. As Christian’s we are called to help each other, not just other Christians, for when we do so we shine the light of Christ though us. Several years ago we had a campaign regarding “Others” at my church home. I learned a lot through the sermon series but I also learned a lot from hearing from people who had been a recipient of someone who had acted on their impulse to help another in need. The impact that was made to the recipient was heart changing and ultimately affected the direction on that person’s life.
What impact have you made this week to another’s life? What impact to the lives of your co-workers will you make this week? If you commit to be an encouragement to your Team, if you make an impact to those you work with but not yet know you, you are helping to build a “Kingdom Minded” company.
Help our community of readers What experiences have you had in the workplace that made it a better day for you and your coworkers? What have you done to be an encouragement at work?
I was honored to be interviewed by Alan Collins who was VP– HR at PepsiCo who I worked with when I led HR for several different business units for the Quaker Oats Organization. Alan is now the Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the HR best seller, UNWRITTEN HR RULES. His new book, BEST KEPT HR SECRETS is now available on Amazon.
Alan and several of my closest contacts have been an absolute blessings and encouragement to my new venture- Thank You Alan and God Bless you and your work.
1. “Be clear and specific on the HR value you provide to your clients…and stick with it.” 2. “Network with many – but take advice from a few.” 3. “Start planning and strategizing long before you get downsized or decide you want to move on.” 4. “Find your strength and build on it.” 5. “Balance your life.” 6. “Find a Church home if you don’t have one.” 7. “Find a hobby you enjoy and do it!”
What tips meant the most to you? We would love to hear from you. What tips have we missed? Let us know we will include them in future articles.