Depressed woman sitting on bed and holding head in hands through window with raindrops. (c) AndrewLozovyi VIA

The hidden costs of unresolved grief in employees

Forrest Christian Uncategorized Leave a Comment

The International Institute for Management Development’s Charles Dhanaraj and George Kohlrieser recently addressed how executives’ unresolved grief can affect both their performance and that of the firm. In their article in McKinsey Quarterly, they write that

we have been continually surprised by how pervasive unresolved grief can be (affecting fully one-third of the 7,000-plus executives we’ve worked with), how likely it is that the symptoms go unnoticed or undiscussed, and how ill-equipped organizations are to handle it.

The hidden perils of unresolved grief“, McKinsey Quarterly, September 20, 2020

They point out that grief isn’t always about losing someone close. Sudden unemployment can create its own grief, different and similar at the same time.

In business, we have always had the idea that the strong don’t feel it. It is one reason why individuals who score high in psychopathy can score high in business: they don’t ever feel anything.

For the rest of us, there is the messiness of emotional life to accept and build with.

As the article points out, grief does not have to destroy us. Grief can, paradoxically and in ways that I do not understand, make stronger leaders and even better individual performers.

Smart companies can’t recognize this because, as legal “persons”, companies are psychopaths. They are incapable of caring because that’s how we have constructed their legal personhood. It requires a human who can feel. You may want to learn how to be that.

If you are in grief, you may be calling me names at this point. I get it. I feel it, too. And I know people who have suffered great trauma and loss, a form of what the early Christian leader, Paul, spoke of when he said that they were

hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

2 Corinthians 4

Dr. Reba Holley, a colleague, tells me this such responses to traumas is Post Traumatic Growth. Her PhD work was on this in combat veterans. It is worth a longer look.

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