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Grieving Employee Forced To Return To Work And 'Smile' Despite The Recent Loss Of A Family Member

Photo: KieferPix / Shutterstock
Silhouette of stressed businesswoman with head in hands sitting at desk in front of window

A working woman revealed that her boss had no compassion for her after she recently lost one of her family members and wasn't given any grace when it came to her job.

In a TikTok video, an estate planning expert named Jessica insisted that there are too many workplaces that just don't know how to handle both grief and bereavement when it comes to their employees.

She was forced to return to work and 'smile' in the office despite recently losing a family member.

Jessica explained that just 2 days after she and her husband had discovered his mother had passed away, the CEO of the company Jessica worked for reached out to confirm if she was coming back to the office the following week. There were no condolences for the loss of her mother-in-law, or inquiries on how she and the rest of her family were holding up — just straight down to business, which Jessica found quite offensive.

"No, I'm not," Jessica replied. "I needed a sense of normalcy. I wanted to get back on. I wanted to be on from 9-to-5 and do my job but I wasn't going to leave my husband at home, especially with a job that I could work from home."

   

   

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A month passed since that exchange between Jessica and the CEO, and the celebration of her mother-in-law's life was happening. She made sure to request that day off so she could be with family, but her CEO ended up calling her twice that day, even though she made sure to inform everyone who needed to know that she was going to be out of the office for something important.

"My CEO called me twice that day to talk about a job description," she recalled. The conversation could've waited until she was back at work. Instead, the unnecessary conversation upset Jessica, and on a day when she was grieving, it didn't help either.

The exchanges only got worse. Following that conversation, Jessica was told that she needed to show up to work and "smile" while grieving and that she needed to bring "camaraderie" into the office once she returned. Jessica explained that the reason she wanted to share this experience was because of how important it was for employers to understand where their employees are at in life.

worker forced to return to work and smile despite the recent loss of a family memberPhoto: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock

While it is inevitable that employees who have experienced loss in their lives need to return to work and get back in the swing of things, there should be more empathy and understanding. Things should be done with ease instead of forcing people to return to normal for the sake of the office and other work colleagues.

"The cost of living allows our careers to rule how we grieve and the space we need to do so. Let’s change the conversation here."

How a company handles employee grief speaks volumes about the workplace culture and how workers are treated. No one wants to work for someone who isn't compassionate and fails to respect what is going on in their personal lives because as much as people want to hope that the two things can be separated, sometimes your personal life bleeds into how you operate at your job.

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Employee Forced To Return To Work And Smile Despite A Family DeathPhoto: pixelshot / Canva Pro

Gossip travels fast in an office and negative experiences can leave a bad taste in other employees' mouths.

It's just basic humanity, and it's disheartening that so many employers out there only care about revenue, performance, and numbers instead of the people who make the profits possible. 

Most working-class people would rather quit and find other employment than put up with an unempathetic boss.

According to a 2022 Gartner survey, after reviewing academic articles, surveying thousands of workers, and conducting interviews, they found that when it comes to what employees expect of their management, it all boils down to a concept called "human leadership." 

Unfortunately, that type of boss is far from the norm. Just over 1 in 4 employees, 29%, said their supervisors are effective at human leadership. Similarly, as many as 90% of U.S. workers believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction and 79% agree it decreases employee turnover, per the 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey.

The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. workers revealed that many have left a previous job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their struggles at work (54%) or in their personal lives (49%). More and more people are willing to quit and find another job rather than put up with a boss who doesn't have a single ounce of care for what they're going through.

   

   

Jessica's experience isn't unique. Many people feel disrespected and unsupported during times of loss in their workplace. There's nothing worse than realizing that all of the hours you've dedicated to a job don't even afford you any kindness. 

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.