The tragic death of Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, was an epic loss to his family and friends. The untimeliness shocked the nation who knew only a little of his great skills as an entrepreneur and expertise in building sound corporations. He was indeed a Silicon Valley hero. But there is a group that grieves at a much deeper level than the public. That group is the workforce of SurveyMonkey: the employees and their family members. Dave was their boss and their coworker, and with each spending most of their waking hours in close contact with coworkers, as in any company, the employees of SurveyMonkey are like an extended family. Some of the CEO’s co-workers knew him well. Some may have never met him. Regardless of the personal connection, death and loss in the workplace have a significant impact.
And today, there are losses and deaths across the nation that affect workers not heralded by headlines and social media. Whether spending time together outside of the workplace, or keeping their relationships within the bounds of work, the bonds of coworkers are still deep and create trust and friendships. It is the employees – and family members – involved in grief and loss that do not make the news, to whom I am speaking. For each workplace, there is a need for grieving and coping. And there may be a need for help.
It is no surprise that such a death can be difficult to deal with. One may feel anxiety, even guilt – certainly an emptiness and shock. And, a loss tends to bring up past losses. We may find ourselves thinking of a long-lost parent or other family member—a spouse or beloved friend. The feelings can be overwhelming and sometimes debilitating. Tension, loss of concentration, anger and sadness are all normal, but still uncomfortable and even affect physical health—difficulty sleeping, eating and preoccupation with morbid thoughts. It is important to normalize these feelings. Sometimes professional help can be useful. Sharing these feelings is very important to the healing process.
Employees of companies like SurveyMonkey benefit from receiving both group and individual counseling. Corporations can provide on-site services and a wide variety of support through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And that is an important service for any company, workforce or individuals experiencing significant loss. Added to the stress of loss, the workforce has concerns about their future. Wondering what will happen to your job may produce feelings of guilt and further impact the grieving process, yet such concerns are very real. So, however you are feeling – overwhelmed, numb, or a variety of intense reactions, here are some suggestions for coping:
- Share your feelings. Coworkers are likely experiencing the same emotions. Mutual support and talking can help everyone get though the grieving process.
- Take advantage of employee assistance programs (EAPs), if available. Experienced counselors can offer support and structure to help individuals and groups come to terms with a loss and make appropriate plans for memorials and gestures of condolences to family members.
- Management can help. Supervisors and managers can work with the company’s human resources specialists to communicate as much information as is available and appropriate. Issues to consider include sharing information, allowing group meetings to discuss reactions and feelings and time off for memorials or special events.
Finally, may I express my personal condolences to the family and coworkers of Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, and all those across the nation who are impacted by the loss of a co-worker, an inspirational figure, or a loved one. Please contact me directly to ask for help or just to express your experience of loss.