There are many variables and considerations when being confronted with death at work. There are different degrees of grief one may experience based on the relationship to the individual who has died or to that individual’s family. In addition, the workplace is a unique environment for those who are processing bereavement and loss. The bereavement could be from the loss of someone within the work force – a co-worker, colleague or supervisor or from the loss of a family member or close friend outside of the workplace. Finally, the bereavement could be shared because of the relationship we have with the others at work. When a co-worker experiences loss, the emotions, feelings and impacts on them will likely transfer to the work environment.

Expressing Condolences and Whether to Send a Condolence Gift

Following a death, the family gathers and often receives many visitors. One of the most customary and traditional ways to express sympathy and offer condolences is by bringing or sending food and condolence baskets to the family members of the deceased. There are several different types of food arrangements, baskets and sympathy gifts that may be sent. Appropriate food items and gift baskets include baked goods and desserts, fruit, dried fruit, & nuts, and assorted chocolates. A gift basket is generally delivered or shipped to the home of the mourning family. When a family is mourning a loss, it is common to provide support and comforting items. Additionally, those who cannot attend the funeral or memorial service may consider sending a sympathy basket or other condolence item to the home.

It is common and appropriate to express sympathy to friends, colleagues, clients and others through sympathy cards and gifts. Depending on the traditions and customs observed by the individual the most traditional items include baked goods and desserts, fruit, dried fruit, & nuts, and assorted chocolates. These types of gift items provide both comfort and nourishment to mourning families and are a respectful way to offer condolences.

Find and Send a Condolence Gift

Select a sympathy gift that helps to comfort family and friends. You can trust’s team of professionals to express your condolences appropriately. You will find the highest-quality products and items carefully selected by the team that are appropriate to send family, friends, colleagues and others.

Gourmet Gifts Baked Goods & Desserts Fruit Baskets Assorted Chocolates

When a Co-Worker, Colleague or Supervisor Dies

When a colleague dies, it is possible that their death can be as difficult to cope with as a friend or family member. This is especially true if this person were particularly close to you, or if you shared a close space within the workplace. The co-worker’s death may stir feelings of anxiety about work within you. How will things be different without this worker present? How will the dynamics of the work team change? How will productivity be affected? How will you change, if this were your closest work friend? Even if the co-worker’s death came after a prolonged illness, there still may be feelings of shock and depression when you actually hear the news. It is fair to expect your life to be impacted by the co-worker’s death. Although each of us cope with death a little differently, it may be difficult to focus on work for a short while. Such lack of concentration often results in work mistakes that can either be annoying or dangerous. In some cases, the grief may make you more irritated, stressed or tense. Those feelings can make an already busy and stressful work environment more difficult.

When a colleague dies:

  • Take time to acknowledge the loss. Talk about what happened with other workers and supervisors. Reminisce about positive experiences at work. Share stories that bring out the personality and character of the deceased. Discuss the contributions that the colleague had made to the workplace.
  • Allow other workers to grieve in their own way. Some will be deeply affected by the loss. Others will not make many public displays of grief. Some will want to talk about the deceased and the effect of the grief. Others will only want to discuss things in private. Remember that no two people grieve a loss the same. Respect the different ways that people may react to the loss.
  • Be gracious to one another. A loss in the workplace is a difficult time. Many adjustments – in scheduling, workload, and responsibilities – will need to be made. Find ways to be cooperative and share the additional burdens that the loss brings about.
  • Be thoughtful and reach out to the surviving family. In a small business, it would be appropriate to attend either the visitation or the funeral, depending on business needs. In a larger business, attending the visitation would be appropriate if the person worked within your department or if you had a long-standing friendship.

 When a supervisor dies:

  • Acknowledgement of the loss and discussion will be vital for the morale and recovery of the employees. While upper management will handle the structure and formal announcements, those directly under the deceased and those who were touched by their leadership will want to meet together. Talk about the things that made this person’s leadership special and effective. Share stories that bring out the positive, humorous times. Discuss the contribution that this leader made to this group’s work experience.
  • Meet with upper management to answer work related questions that may be on the minds of many. Will the structure of responsibilities change? Will the workload change? Will someone be brought in immediately to take over the position? Will the team be dispersed?
  • While the business will probably make a donation or send flowers to the funeral or home of mourners, those immediately under the deceased’s supervision will likely want to make their own gift or donation. Appoint someone to make the collections and purchase the item.
  • Be supportive of one another. The loss of a leader is a challenging, difficult time. Find ways to be cooperative, be gracious in allowing people the chance to grieve in their own way, and share the job responsibilities that the loss creates.
  • Reach out to the surviving family by being present at the visitation, funeral, memorial or in-home mourning time. While the business needs must be considered, the presence of those who worked closest with this individual will show support and compassion to the family.

If a Family Member or Friend Dies: How to share this Loss at Work

Processing the death of a close friend or family member can be challenging especially when trying to maintain professionalism and continuing to function at work. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the individual who has died, along with your ability to cope with the loss, it is important to bring to your employer’s attention the nature of the loss and inquire about taking time off. Whether it is to allow yourself time to attend the funeral and burial, grieve and mourn or provide support for family one of the most important considerations is communication. Many companies have bereavement policies that are included in employee handbooks. An open discussion with your supervisor regarding the situation may be helpful as each situation is unique.

According to “The Grief Index: The Hidden Annual Costs of Grief in America’s Workplace” the average leave of absence provided by American businesses is three days. On day four, the worker is generally expected to once again fulfill duties effectively and efficiently. Companies are forced to balance the business and employees’ needs when setting expectations. There are high costs on both sides that should be considered by both employers and employees when confronted with death in the workplace. The workplace needs are especially unique. Although the employee is grieving, the burden often falls on the individual to communicate and articulate the circumstances with the employer. Unfortunately, there is no standard so each company may have different policies and procedures when faced with loss in the workplace and how to help employees in the days beyond the traditional bereavement leave. As an employer, it is generally beneficial when offering resources to employees who have experienced a loss. It often improves productivity by helping employees cope with the grief process. In addition, it may also reduce turnover because it demonstrates to the employee that they are of value to the company.