Anyone who has ever lost a close family member may have experienced the unsettling feeling that creeps in some days or weeks after the funeral. When things start to get back to normal there is a tendency for people not to talk about the person who has died or even to mention their name. It’s as if they do it will cause upset all over again. But by not talking, deep seated emotional problems can easily emerge, especially in the young.

In our working environments we get used to people leaving us; the once figurehead of a department departs for horizons new, they are replaced and life continues. Maybe not as it was but with relatively minor impact. Our company processes are designed for changes in personnel. However, they can become terribly unstuck when team members are sacked or even worse, when they are killed in a work related accident or commit suicide. I have witnessed at first hand the transformation of tightly knit, respectful teams into dysfunctional and embittered clusters of individuals in these kinds of situations.

At a time when one might imagine a tragedy pulling everyone together, in fact the opposite is the more likely.  In families too we can witness the same phenomenon.

Although redundancies do not have the same intensity as a tragic accident or suicide, they can still have devastating impacts on those left behind, especially if they are carried out in an unprofessional manner. Without good explanation, careful planning and thought for the people left behind, ‘temporary’ arrangements left in the wake of sackings can often become long term structures with dominant players seizing opportunities to expand their area of influence and control. I find it such a shame that not enough attention is spent on anticipating what the consequences of the loss will be and how to take on board personal emotions and ensure the correct management of the resulting team dynamics.

I write this, because this week I have, coincidentally, come across this topic in three separate conversations. And I know from my own experience (both private and professional) that “not talking about John” is far more common than one supposes.

My advice therefore to anyone facing such a situation is to try and get those around you to understand that indeed nothing will ever be the same again, and that some professional help may well be beneficial. By creating the right kind of environment to open the box of understanding we can begin to face the emotions that come to the surface and begin to build new beginnings based on adapting to a different way of working. After all, not everything or everyone can be replaced.

Have a good week