Etiquette for a Boss for a Death in the Family

by Sam Williams; Updated September 26, 2017

Sometimes, a manager's duties go beyond measuring production and performance for the company. Sometimes those management skills have to be put to use to recognize and assist with ups and down in an employee's life outside of the job. In the old days, allowing your personal life to overlap with your professional life was frowned upon. Since then, managers have learned the importance of maintaining balance.

Manager's Role

The manager is the representative of a company when traveling and interacting with customers, as well as when serious events call for leadership. The family of the bereaved, co-workers of that employee and other departments are watching how he handles the situation. Opinions formed about the company at this critical juncture could impact production and attitudes across the board.

Respecting Privacy

A manager could get a call directly from an employee who has had a death in the family, or he might even be the person to deliver the bad news to the employee. The employee should be called into a separate room without making a big announcement in front of other staff members. It is important that the employee is shown that his privacy is valued. Leave it up to the employee whether he wants to disclose this information to others.

Condolences and the Family

Proper etiquette for a boss is to call the family and offer condolences on behalf of himself and the company. If the employee wants a shoulder to cry on, the boss should be prepared to listen. The employee needs a reasonable amount of time before he can answer questions about returning to work. In handling death and bereavement in an employee's family, the supervisor also should send a letter, card or flowers.

Employee Death

Co-workers spend a large part of their day interacting with one another. They develop friendships. A death of a co-worker or a co-worker's family member could resonate throughout the entire office. A workplace should consider providing employees with bereavement counselors who are contracted to confidentiality, who are independent of the corporation and who are trained to deal with helping people address current issues and emerging issues complicated by the death.

Employee Benefits

The boss should take an active role in helping the employee or employee's survivor get any benefits due from company insurance policies. These benefits may hold the answers to the family's pressing questions about funeral expenses or handling financial burdens the death may have put on the family. When it is appropriate, three or more days after the incident, facilitate the payment of benefits expected by calling the employee and gathering all the details necessary.



  • Voices of Bereavement: A Casebook for Grief Counselors; Joan Beder; 2004

About the Author

Sam Williams has been a marketing specialist and ad writer since 1995. He has been published in magazines such as "Reaching Out" and "Spa Search." He served in various sales and marketing positions with major corporations such as American Express, Home Depot and Wells Fargo. Williams studied English at Morehouse College.

Photo Credits

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