Before speaking for a company, I always ask whether there have been any recent tragedies that have impacted the workplace.
A few days before delivering a keynote I was informed that one of the company leaders, Fred, had just lost his niece to suicide. Sadly, hearing that someone in the workplace has lost someone to suicide is not rare. What is rare, however, is the way that Fred chose to address this loss.
With Fred’s permission I would like to share the letter he emailed his fellow leaders.
On November 4th I found out that my 13-year-old niece died by suicide. I spent the last week with my family as we tried to process this news. While the funeral added a sense of finality to this tragedy, the current emotions associated with this as I’m working through the grieving process definitely comes in waves.
I do want to mention that I am open to talking about this, but I would ask you to be mindful of the timing. Ideally, I would prefer to avoid having multiple discussions back to back in a given day.
Coming back to work has allowed me to focus on other things, which helps as I continue to move forward into “normal” life. Although I don’t work with each of you on a regular basis, I do think it is important for me to share this with everyone to provide some context should you find that you are experiencing me differently than you would have previously. If you do find this, I ask that you grant me some grace, but still hold me to account as necessary.
I can fully appreciate the courage and vulnerability that was required for Fred to send this message to other leaders. I marvel not only at the way Fred chose to communicate the situation, but also his needs.
Often, when employees in a company catch wind of a tragedy, many feel uncomfortable approaching the person who has been impacted. Fred’s approach made this process much easier for those around him.
Secondly, for me it is significant to note that Fred did not shy away from the fact that the loss of his niece was by suicide. Fred put a voice to this prevalent issue, and in turn it allowed others to do the same.
A strong leader is accountable, communicates effectively, lives with integrity, and inspires others.
Fred exemplifies all of these qualities, and left me truly inspired.
In times of tragedy I would encourage you to communicate what you need.