Written by Dr Gerald Lewis
We all know the saying, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Well for work organizations, it may not be true. In recent years, there has been a wide range of events that have dramatically impacted the public and private sector work place. From large scale events such as natural disasters to “smaller” tragedies such as the tragic death of an employee, the business environment is very vulnerable to incidents that can cause immediate as well as long term effect to the individual workers, departments and, in fact the entire work place.
What we know is that people are very resilient and most are able to overcome dramatic and traumatic events… as long as they feel supported. However, most workplaces tend to take a near sighted view: “Let’s get back to work as soon as possible. People will feel better with business as usual.” While most workers can and will do so, often the reactions to the event may be delayed or emerge in a variety of ways that do not seem connected to the tragedy. As an example, there was a factory in which an individual was killed while walking to his car after work. Of course there was a funeral and the workplace sent flowers to the family.
However, the company made several errors in its approach to this tragedy:
- Workers had to use their personal time to attend the funeral;
- Nothing was said to the workforce by the “higher ups” as they were advised that to do so, may lead to litigation by the family as the worker was walking to his car after work;
- The employee had been with the company for 15 years and had developed close friendships… some could not return to work right away and they were docked some pay;
- Within a week, the company discontinued the employee’s benefits and the wife and children were left without benefits.
Within a month, 3 skilled employees left the company. There was an epidemic of others calling in sick. This resulted in internal stress and people fighting with each other over who was working the hardest. Management attempted to deal with this by strict discipline which led to a greater decrease in morale. Within 6 months, sales dropped dramatically. Layoffs ensued.