Helping the Team with the Healing Process

How are you helping the team with the healing process in your organization?  As much as we would all love to just “move on” from what has consumed our life, it just isn’t that easy.

We are in one of two camps.  We either lost our job and are dealing with the grief associated with it or we are still working at our company and are struggling with the guilt of keeping our job while others have lost theirs.

Feels like a lose-lose situation, doesn’t it?

Retail has experienced a massive disruption with thousands of stores closing and even more associates being laid off.  We talk about the grief people are feeling when they lose their job.  What about the associates who will remain with the brand?  Is anyone thinking about how they are feeling?  There are some who say that they should be grateful to have a job.  The reality is, each individual, whether impacted with a job loss or impacted with survivor guilt, will need support and help with the healing process.

As a leader, recognizing this grief and helping your teams find a way through is one of the most important aspects of your job right now.

The Impact of COVID on Our Lives

There is no doubt that COVID has robbed us all of a feeling of of control over our lives, instilled anxiety in many and changed how most of us lived from day to day. From fear of job loss to the death of loved ones, the realities haunted us.

The Grief is Real

In an earlier blog, I shared how the impact of job loss can send us reeling and we need to allow ourselves time to grieve.  Easier said than done for many.  I continue to see posts on LinkedIn of people who are overwhelmed by the fear, denial, anger, and sadness.  This sadness stems from leaving their teams and their customers.  For many, locking the door to their store for the last time was traumatic.  It is like being forced out of a home you love.  If you have never worked in retail, this might sound odd.  But if you have, you know just what I mean.

In this blog, I want to focus on the teams who remain working for brands while others were let go.  Many of these associates feel guilty that they were chosen to remain.

How to Balance the Emotions

If you are one of the people who “get” to work at the same company where many of your colleagues were laid off, my advice to you is to try and balance your emotions.

  • Allow yourself to deal with the “Survivor Guilt” that you might be feeling.  This link is to a great article in Psychology Today.
  • You may feel better by offering help to your laid off colleagues however you can, whether writing a recommendation, reviewing their LinkedIn profile or checking in on them to see how they are doing.
  • Don’t overthink why you are still there when others were let go.  Be grateful and give the company your absolute best.
  • Be kind to yourself!

Leading your Team

David Kessler, an expert of grief, wrote an article in HBR (July/August issue) about helping teams heal and I will be quoting some components here.  I highly recommend buying this issue if you are a people leader.  Recognizing what people are going through and how they sit in three different groups will go a long way in helping them move forward.

The Worried Well

“The worried well are healthy.  They haven’t experienced sickness around them but they feel concerned.  They may still be grieving losses of work, of normalcy, of opportunities, and events.  Work projects they were passionate about.  Weddings.  Vacations and trips.  All legitimate losses that create grief.”

“The worried well are also experiencing anticipatory grief, deep anxiety in which the mind imagines future losses.  Within this group are minimizers and maximizers.  Minimizers cope by denying the severity of the situation or hoping for the best. Maximizers imagine the sky is falling.  The truth lies somewhere between the two points of view.”

The Affected

“The affected are people who were sick themselves or know someone who was sick and has recovered. They haven’t just imagined trauma. They experienced it.  The will benefit from accommodation and validation.  Some may need counseling and other support mechanisms.”

The Bereaved

“The third group is the bereaved. They have lost a loved one, are grieving a death and will be dealing directly with the five stages. Many of them will be far from acceptance. ”

I will add one more group to the bereaved, and those are the people who have lost their jobs.  People who are in a market, like retail, that is now saturated with unemployed workers.   This is a very large group, many who I know personally.  Many who invested their adult lives into a brand, 10 years, 15 years, 25 years.  Now they wonder where they will find a job.  A career they love and can invest the passion they once felt.

It’s your Turn

If you are a people leader, whether you are in retail or not, job #1 is to focus on caring for your teams.  Recognize how they are feeling and what they might need.  Associates will need varying degrees of support.  Now isn’t the time for “blanket policies”. This is a powerful time to show the type of organization you are.  When all this is over, wouldn’t it be awesome for your teams to tell people what an amazing company they work for and what you did to support them?

Those who are searching for a new career will be asking a lot more questions than ever before to understand the character of the organization.  How you are leading now will be the best predictor of how you will lead In the future to these potential new hires.

The choice is each of ours.

Always in your Corner,


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