When something tragic happens to someone at work, the news travels fast.
Tom is getting divorced.
Sally’s son just overdosed.
John’s been diagnosed with colon cancer.
Tammy’s mother died.
Eric just learned his job is being eliminated.
You might get wind of it at lunch, or in a text message or email. Or you might have overheard a conversation in the break room or bathroom.
People are talking but are they doing anything to offer support or comfort to the person dealing with this difficult life situation?
What do you do with that news once you learn about it? Do you stop by that person’s desk or send them a quick text telling them you heard the news and want to offer help, encouragement, or support?
Or, do you put your head down and mind your own business? “After all, this is a professional place of business, and those kind of things are “personal”. And besides, what can I really say or do to help?”, you may reason with yourself.
But if you are one to MYOB then don’t be surprised if those same people who are hurting, might at some point consider you a jerk.
That’s kind of harsh isn’t it?
Or is it?
You see, showing compassion, acknowledging someone’s struggle, or offering a kind word has nothing to do with being professional. But it has everything to do with being a good human.
I’m sure you never thought of it this way before. But let me tell you, a lot of hurting people are thinking this, especially if you are known to otherwise be a nice person.
That’s actually when it is the most hurtful; when good, kind people, do nothing.
To know that you, the nice guy or gal, isn’t saying a word to acknowledge a loss can be devastating to the person who is suffering. They know you know, and to them it seems like you just don’t care.
So why is it you would rather mind your own business than show a bit of compassion toward a co-worker?
I am willing to bet the reason is because these kinds of situations make you feel really REALLY uncomfortable.
You might not know what to do, or what to say. And even if you do, what if you mess it up and make things worse?
And what if they start crying?
Or worse yet, what if YOU start crying?
It’s OK, calm down.
This is exactly why I am writing this and it is exactly why I wrote my book: “How Can I Help?” .
Until now there was no guide book to help you know what to do or say in these kinds of situations. So let me give you a valuable piece of information right now:
There are NO MAGIC WORDS you can say to make it all better.
That’s because there are no magic words ANYONE can say.
Now that you know that, it should relieve some of the pressure. But that doesn’t let you off the hook.
There are plenty of things you CAN do or say to help.
Of course there are those who will immediately swoop in with hugs and words of support and comfort. But if that’s not you, that’s perfectly ok. You don’t have to have a doctorate in nurturing to let people know you care.
So let me give you just a few suggestions of things you can do, that let your suffering coworker know you acknowledge their struggle, which is a way to offer support:
Sent them a text or email with a short note like: “I’m really sorry to hear about your son Brian. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.” Or “I lost my mom last year, so I understand that kind of pain. I am so sorry for your loss. I’m here if you need a friend.”
If that is too uncomfortable, perhaps consider sending them a card, or a small gift or just bring them a cup of coffee the next time you head out.
A glance of understanding can say volumes.
It’s the acknowledgement that counts.
It’s the lack of acknowledgement that is most painful.
So step out of your fear, and step in with caring and compassion.
You got this!