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  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

Is grief affecting your team's performance?

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

A bout of insomnia & a few light tears recently had me reflecting. As a Change Manager & Career Change Coach, I often simply observe my emotions with curiosity to uncover the deeper mysteries of human psychology.

I identified the emotion coming up as grief. But grief over what? Believe it or not - over work.

Which seemed odd because grief is usually associated with death. But I think it's more accurate to define grief as the reaction to LOSS. Any loss.

What's loss all about? 

It's the loss of something real or promised. Of losing something we had in the past, or expected to have in the future. Something that was meaningful, & valued, & enjoyed. If you lost something you didn't value, you wouldn't care enough to grieve.  

In my case, it was a team of high performers, a team of friends, a team of strategic intent, a team of collaborative support. This team is gone forever, a promise & a hope left unfulfilled.

And though the grieving itself wasn't a pleasant feeling, it was a moving experience by feeling for myself what many employees feel during a restructure - grief at the loss of something they had, or something that was promised.

A new structure gained...

As I offer a Transformation Support Program for teams undergoing restructures, it’s important to have empathy for my clients, for the groups of people I work with as they navigate the emotional ups & downs of organisational redesign. I've always been excited when my own team has restructured - at the possibilities & potentials the future may hold! Yet, sadly most employees have the exact opposite reaction - fear & panic, stress & anxiety. And grief.

For them, there's loss of many things:

  • A loss of confidence & identity

  • A loss of safety, security & certainty in their role or where that role was going

  • A loss of people - friends & colleagues

  • A loss of a culture or a vision they knew & loved

  • A loss of trust in their organisation & its leaders

With all this loss, it would be interesting to quantify the grief. If you could pour out the bucket loads of grief felt by all the staff during a restructure, I wonder how many swimming pools it would fill?

At what cost? 

Within the space of 24 hours I'd already moved on from my grief. I've worked on myself & my own psychology in such a way that I usually reflect & accept quickly, & have already made some new empowering decisions about what new value I can bring to my organisation in the wake of these changes - it's exciting!

A lot of employees wouldn't move on so fast. And some may never accept. Which means that 1 month, 6 months, 2 years down the track, their grief over the losses they felt during the restructure is likely still affecting performance, morale & engagement.

The phenomenon of “survivor employees” is very real, leading to what I call the “second wave” of staff departures - the key talent that leave of their own accord 6-12 months after a restructure, with a wake of vacancies & backfilling issues for weeks & even months.

What if we could shift the experience employees to bring understanding & acceptance upfront in the restructure process?What value could we unlock?And what insomnia could we save from our people?

This is something I’ll be exploring in articles to come.

Lata Hamilton is the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, an Executive Coach and Change Leadership Trainer. Sign up to her Change Inspiration mailing list here to get weekly goodies such as articles, templates, tools, videos and upcoming courses direct to your inbox.




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