Q: Our sales rep has been with us 12 years. Recently his wife died and his performance has dropped severely; his demeanor is negatively affecting others. How would you handle this? —Anonymous, Cincinnati

A: Often, people suffering a loss feel alone and isolated. When a valued member of your team is suffering, it is important that you help him understand that he not only has a team at work, but a team in life.

As his supervisor, you need to take him aside and:

  • Ask permission to speak straight with him about what you are seeing;

  • Acknowledge his unimaginable loss;

  • Let him know how his behavior is affecting his co-workers and job quality;

  • Communicate your willingness to help him work through his loss;

  • Allow him to speak;

  • Create a plan for how you can support him and what he is committed to in terms of moving forward.

Resolving a loss like this is all about the team and letting the employee know that he has a place to go, that he doesn’t have to be by himself, that people care about him, and that how he acts affects the entire team.
You don’t need to take on the roll of therapist. But you can help him find a grief counselor, letting him know that it’s a normal, acceptable route for dealing with loss. You can support him in managing his loss, moving forward, and doing the job he has done well for the past 12 years.

—Clay Nelson is a business coach, radio talk show host, author, former “nail-belt wearing” contractor, and speaker. For more information, e-mail clay@claynelsonlifebalance.com or visit www.claynelsonlifebalance.com.