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The HaBO Village Podcast

How Grief Affects Your Company and How to Handle It [Podcast]

Episode 27: In this episode, Michael and Kathryn discuss the topic of grief and how it affects your company. Whether you are a leader who is experiencing grief, or it's one of your employees, knowing the 5 Stages of Grief and how to identify them will benefit your Passion and Provision company.

Women grieving at the desk

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • How grief can negatively impact your company

  • The 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) and what they mean

  • Example situations where grief affected our company

  • How to treat and process grief in a healthy way so you can have a better Passion and Provision company

 

"When things happen to us in life that are challenges, they affect our creativity, our work, our relationships, and ultimately our companies. We need to be aware of how to approach life's difficult challenges in a healthy way so we can avoid getting stuck, and return to our best as soon as possible."

– Michael Redman

References:

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (psychiatrist who introduced the 5 Stages of Grief model) 

 

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Michael:        Hello there. Welcome to HaBO Village Podcast. I'm Michael Redman.


Kathryn:
      And I'm Kathryn Redman.


Michael:
      And we're really glad you're with us today here in the Village. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen. If you're visiting us for the first time, thank you for checking us out. And if you haven't listened to them, please check out episodes one, two, and three. You'll find out a huge amount about what we believe and what we're thinking, and why we think you can have a business that's profitable and enjoyable, or what we think is full of joy and peace, which is actually something counterintuitive to what people think business can be for entrepreneurs and leaders.


Kathryn:
      And we call that Passion and Provision.


Michael:
      Passion and Provision.


Kathryn:
      Yes sir.


Michael:
      And today on our journey to talk about what it takes to have more Passion and Provision in our companies, you know what, we really just thought we'd talk about something that ... Well, you may want to turn the podcast off as soon as you hear this topic, but I'm going to tell you, it's worth listening to, and that is, we're going to talk about grief. I don't think we're going to get sappy. I don't think we're going to get all depressing, but grief is something that all human beings have to deal with, including the superhuman people called entrepreneurs.


Kathryn:
      Yes, business leaders.


Michael:
      Business leaders. And it is really, really important. For some of you, you've had some good training in emotional intelligence and health, and even just healthy emotional processes, and grief, how you deal with it. And we're going to talk about what scientists have talked about and labeled as the five most common stages of grief. I'll just be straight up and honest with you. The reason we're going to do this is because for the last six months, I've been processing a number of different things, and even some of the things we've been processing together. But let me put it this way, stages of grief, because what happens in life affects us. That's why this is important.


Michael:
      So I'm hoping you stay tuned in today, because when things happen to us in life that are challenges, they affect our creativity, our work, our relationships, and ultimately, our companies. They really do, so we need to be aware of how to approach life's difficult challenges in a healthy way, so we can avoid getting stuck, and return to our best as soon as possible. Because when difficult things happen, and there's difficult challenges in life, we have to go through a process. There is no way around it. And if you address the things, the way we're put together as human beings, you will be far better off and so will the people around you. And as leaders, we need to care for our own emotional health, so we can also care for our employees' health.


Michael:
      A lot of leaders aren't going to think that's important, but you don't want people necessarily coming and being an emotional wreck at work, but what if you have great employees that you have cared for, loved, they're really productive, they make you a lot of money, they're great members of the team, and then all of a sudden they hit a rough spot in life where something just throws them for a loop. If you're more aware of this in your own emotional sense of the stages of grief, you're going to be able to help them see where they may be getting stuck, and bring them back to a place where they're in a better place to work, be productive, and you guys can help your company by helping them.


Michael:
      Because it's expensive to lose an employee, and when they become less and less productive, that's costly too. And so just caring about people's humanity actually has a bottom line result to working your goals.


Kathryn:
      Well, and if you're processing your own grief as a leader, your own whatever, how you interact with your employees, how you handle the fact that you're going to have up days and down days, is really a critical component to just good leadership.


Michael:
      Absolutely. Some questions that I wrote down that I thought were important to talk about are, what kind of events cause grief? I'll just be honest, in the last six months, there have been two or three different major things that have happened that have caused some challenges for us that I wouldn't have necessarily called it grief. But because I understand that grief is a broader term, it's not just this emotional despair, you start to identify it more. And one of those was two of our employees that had been with us for a while, one for a long term, was wooed away by another company with an amazing opportunity for her and her opportunity to move up and build into her career.


Michael:
      She's in her late 20s, and this was just a great opportunity, and paid a whole lot of money. I don't know if I would have said no to it. But when we lost her, it was very sad. And then we lost another one of our employees that was newer, but again, they had an amazing opportunity that came aboard.


Kathryn:
      And they had contributed a ton and it was just a very painful loss, and they were right on each other's heels.


Michael:
      So it was a double whammy for us. It really was. Those things can happen. Those were good circumstances when people left because they both cried when they left. They both appreciated their time here, but it was time for them to move on, and nothing in a negative sense at all. They both said they were going to miss it. They both just couldn't pass up the opportunities that were being given to them. And in many ways, we had developed and nurtured our staff. We have a mindset of developing them, that you want them to do well in life. You're just hoping that they do well with you, but that contributed to some of my grief this last year.


Michael:
      And then my grandmother, who was 96 years old, still married to my grandfather, who is 96 years old. They had been married for 75 years. She passed away just a few weeks ago. And over the last few months, we went from her not doing well to going into hospice, and then going through hospice. The hospice thing, really only lasted a week, but then we went into then the post death. It's kind of weird to say death, but it's part of life. The post death week and process, and then the graveside memorial service. And I actually performed the graveside memorial service. Kathryn helped me and we did that for our family.


Michael:
      So it was amazing, several things had happened in here, and those are events that all of us have. I mean, you and I went through this again, just a few years ago, right Kathryn?


Kathryn:
      Yeah, I mean, in terms of just how your staff has to process when their boss is going through a major, major hard times. My dad got sick and passed away, in some senses, rather suddenly really, about five and a half years ago, and it was a really, really rough time. It's very difficult to keep moving forward and meeting expectations of staff and clients when you're in the middle of a season like that. And yet, with their help and with their understanding and with that transparency that we'll talk about, just owning the journey that you're on, you get through those times.


Michael:
      Yeah. And for those of you that are leaders, I mean, if you're a leader in a company, odds are you've got parents or grandparents that are in those later stages. Not to mention, we have friends, peers of ours, that just occasionally, one of your peers passes away just way too early in life, whether it's cancer or a heart attack or whatever, those type of things happen. And while we may not feel like it's a huge emotional whammy, it may not feel like a huge loss, what we have learned personally in our lives and quite frankly a lot of counseling with a lot of folks over the years that Kathryn and I have done, the days we were in vocational ministry or pastoring or just the relationships and the leadership and the mentoring we've done over the years with health challenges, disease, family, everything else, there are just plenty of moments where our brain and our emotions are impacted.


Michael:
      A matter of fact, we knew that my grandmother was in hospice. We knew she was going to go soon, and had the opportunity to be at her side several times and talk to her and read scripture to her and some things like that. I knew that we were waiting for her to go in the next couple of days, and Kathryn and I had to go on a business trip. And I anticipated that while we were gone, she would pass. It was a high probability. So I had been prepping for months. My grandparents are 96, so you have to understand, it's not like we thought they were going to last till they were 104.


Kathryn:
      Your grandma had a right to call it quits. She got to be done. It was okay.


Michael:
      She did really well, and I wanted her to not suffer, so I wanted that piece. And if there's anybody still listening to this podcast at this moment, this heavy podcast, the two of you and the two of us, the four of us listening, there's a sense in which you just ... I'll tell you that when I got the phone call, we were in the car. My mom called, she told me, and I totally expected everything else and it was fine, and then I hung up. And then I was all of a the sudden, so tired. It was like this wave of exhaustion just flew over me, and a flood of memories, because my grandmother was really influential, both my grandparents, they were very influential in my sister and I's growing up years.


Michael:
      Lots of great memories, lots of little things, lots of ... I mean, the good ones where you had lots of fun, and the bad ones where you're little and you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing, and she's coming down the driveway with the wooden spoon. I have no memory of what happened with that wooden spoon, but I'm pretty sure I know what happened with that wooden spoon. All those memories started flooding back, and I was exhausted, and yet I was not surprised. And yet somehow there was a letdown that happened. Those things are real in life, and we do not recover from them quickly. I guess the two things I'm trying to say here is A, don't underestimate how the little things that you don't feel like are a big deal, how they will affect you subconsciously.


Michael:
      They will affect you physically, and if you could acknowledge that, and understand that it's not a requirement for it to be a huge emotional "grief" then you can realize that there is a form of grief going on there and you can address it and recover it. If you don't address it, you can get stuck in it, and there can be some things. So let's talk about those five stages of grief. First is denial.


Kathryn:
      These are the classic five stages, Helen Kübler-Ross-


Michael:
      I think she's the first one.


Kathryn:
      I think so too.


Michael:
      But you can even go to the Mayo Clinic's website now, and they talk about these as the five general stages that most human beings go through. At some level, they have to go through these, and almost always, we go through them in order.


Kathryn:
      Yeah.


Michael:
      And we can go through them quickly.


Kathryn:
      So the five are denial, anger-


Michael:
      Bargaining.


Kathryn:
      Bargaining. I'm trying to read his notes upside down.


Michael:
      No.


Kathryn:
      So denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. So those are the five. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


Michael:
      And the first one, especially when it's real extreme, it can be as subtle as, "I don't want to believe this is happening." It's like, "No, you're not going to quit."


Kathryn:
      "You're going to come back tomorrow." There was quite a few days after these last couple of folks put us on notice that I was pretty sure I was going to come in the next morning and they're going to be like, "Nope, changed my mind, can't leave you, love you too much. I'm going to stay here." Right? That's denial.


Michael:
      My grandmother, even though I knew it was happening, totally aware of it, totally involved in the process, helping my grandparents with their finances even, and managing some of their legal affairs, and yet, I can't believe she's gone.


Kathryn:
      It's just super surreal.


Michael:
      It's just like, "Is she really ..." To the other extreme is literally that moment you just ... If you say it didn't happen enough, because the grief is so strong, maybe it will go away. You know it's not true, but you're just like, "No. I can't believe it. I can't believe that that happened. It's not possible." That happens a lot with sudden, extreme versions-


Kathryn:
      Of loss.


Michael:
      ... of loss at any level, and issues that have been violated, if you've been violated in some way. There's a grief process, and you just kind of want to deny it happened. Denial isn't just 100%. My experience with denials also, you try and minimize the impact it has, immensely. "No, it's not that big a deal. I'm fine. It's not a big deal." What you're doing is you're denying the fact that something happened that was hard, and that it is going to affect you, right? You're either denying the event or you're denying the impact of the event.


Kathryn:
      Right, which is typically more common actually, that you would deny the impact of it, "You know what, it's no big deal. I'm totally fine." And you're looking at somebody who you know has just experienced a profound loss, and you're like, "How are you?" And they go, "You know what, I'm all right. I'm good." And you're like, "No. You can't be."


Michael:
      You may be saying that because somebody asked you who's not close to you, and you don't want to be vulnerable, and you're just trying to protect yourself, and that's true, that happens. But when it's close to friends and everything else, it's amazing how often, and quite frankly, it's amazing how often we actually are not trying to hide it. We actually are deceived ourselves. We're like, "I think I'm fine." It's only until you get through this a lot, and you realize, when you get to that place where something, an event has happened that is traumatic at any level, any kind of loss, and you don't feel anything, that is not the sign that you're fine.


Michael:
      It is often the sign that there is like a monsoon, not a monsoon, a tidal wave or something where the waves have actually sucked out from shore, and there's a false calm before the waves come back. They will come back, just know it. And so if you acknowledge it, you won't have your back turned to the waves when they come and slap you.


Kathryn:
      Yep. So that's denial?


Michael:
      That's denial. And then the next part is once you really acknowledge that it has happened, oh, boy, especially if you didn't want it, it was sudden, you were surprised, you're offended, you're hurt, you start to get angry.


Kathryn:
      And the angry is anything from, "Why me? Why this? Why not him? Why not her?" Right? It's all of those emotions that say, "This isn't fair, and I'm just really angry that this happened, that you're leaving me. That this person left me. That this betrayal occurred," whatever that is. This is where you move into that phase of being truly ticked off.


Michael:
      Yeah. It's funny, because if you are allowing yourself to walk, understand that this is part of life. You're not immune. You're not a superhero when it comes to this. Get over it. You'll actually process through these things in a much more healthy way, and you may be afraid of the intensity, of the emotions, that you need to let it happen. I know this sounds weird from a business podcast and everything else, but this is all about Passion and Provision, having peaceful, joyful lives with a profitable company. This is important for you to take care of your own emotions, and to be aware of those you lead.


Michael:
      Sometimes these moments, when you acknowledge them and process through them, they can actually become incredible moments in life that provide valuable lessons and opportunities that carry with you often. We had an event where we had a very significant mentor and boss when we were in our late 20s, we'd only been married a few years, and our daughter was less than a year old. And there was a massive, massive, massive betrayal in our organization that we were in. It was incredibly painful, and he lost all of his relationships. He lost his marriage. He lost the relationship with his four children, and he didn't get to see his oldest daughter get married. We were there, he wasn't. There was-


Kathryn:
      He was stripped of all his credentials. I mean, it was just a massive problem.


Michael:
      It was awful. And it was so painful that it literally took us three years to recover from the whiplash of the depth of that betrayal, because he was a mentor, a friend. We had all moved to another state, his family and Kathryn and I to do work there. Actually, we were working in a church, so it was even a triple onslaught pain, because he was our pastor at the same time. And when you have leadership, and you have that kind of responsibility, betraying that trust that comes with a leader can be devastating. We were processing through it, trying to be very, very, very mature, and handle it and adjust and everything else, and then finally, I ended up needing to go to counseling.


Michael:
      Here's where we really learned it at a deep level. I was stuffing all this. I know what happened, but I'm actually fine. I'm okay. And then it walloped me, and it walloped me in a way that said for five days, six days in a row, maybe seven days in a row, I at some moment every day started uncontrollably crying. I had a wave of emotion come over me, and I could not stop crying for like 10 or 15 minutes. And it happened in the most uncomfortable places, because it just happened when I was out and about doing life and business. It was good that I had certain people around, friends around many times, but I ended up going to counseling, going, "Maybe I'm not as okay as I thought it was."


Kathryn:
      So you were actually in stage one. It was denial.


Michael:
      And then in counseling, they took me to the place where I said, "I was betrayed." And I laughed at them, and I said, "He didn't betray me." And after about 20 minutes of counseling, this counselor said, "Yeah," and finally got me to point to the place where I realized I had been deeply betrayed.


Kathryn:
      I'm just going to tell you from the wife's perspective, it was not fun when he came home. He was so angry. And so here we are, like four months removed from said event, and suddenly he is unleashing his venom, not on me, but just so angry. Like, "Okay, we just had a breakthrough, you're really hacked." "All right, well, okay, that's progress. Yay."


Michael:
      To give you the level of this betrayal and everything, and the way it changed our life, I was angry for three solid weeks at this man. It took three weeks to get through the anger, there was so much. It might have gone better if we had started earlier processing it, but we had a lot of work to do. We had hurting people around us, and we were pulling up our boots and just getting work done. That is one of the things that can mask dealing with your hurt. And then the third thing is bargaining. How does bargaining work itself out Kathryn, in your perspective, from what you've seen?


Kathryn:
      So this one's a little bit tricky for me. I think the bargaining is where, I mean, if you're a person of faith, you start negotiating with God, like, "You know what, if you'll just fix this, then I'll never ever, ever again." If it's fixable. Obviously, if somebody has passed away, that's a pretty tough one. But you start just trying to trade off different things through relationships to try and just deal with the pain.


Michael:
      Yeah, you just want the pain to stop.


Kathryn:
      Yeah.


Michael:
      Because the anger unleashed this thing that turns into bargaining, and it really is the transition from stage two, anger, into stage three, grieving, because you start to bargain. And these are phases, you can cycle back in them, but knowing ... It's really been helpful for Kathryn and I, when we're in this process, because things in life happen and you go, "Oh, I think I'm in the anger phase. I think I'm in the bargaining phase. I think I'm in the grieving phase." Because what can happen as you go into bargaining, you go into the depression is stage four.


Kathryn:
      Well, depression is really that place where you just kind of go, "You know what, nothing matters. It doesn't matter. Nothing I'm doing matters. I just don't want to function anymore. I'm just kind of done."


Michael:
      You're not looking to kill yourself.


Kathryn:
      No. I mean, someone might be but-


Michael:
      Well, maybe it can happen at this phase.


Kathryn:
      Yeah, but the reality is this is the place where you just kind of lose your sense of purpose and meaning, because of this event, like, "If this can happen, then what's the point of A, B, and C?" Right? "If this can happen, why should I give a rat's patootie about solving this thing over here, because life is untrustworthy and fragile and scary, and I just can't face it?" Right? You lose hope in that place.


Michael:
      And then the final stage is acceptance. You've kind of walked through all that, and it's usually commensurate to the size of the loss and the pain and the preparation and the time warning you had ahead of it. Because you lose five bucks, you're grieving over five bucks lost, or you lost a $20 bill, you get frustrated, you get angry, "Why was I so stupid?" It happens, you can see it. You can see, actually, the stages in that, but it's such a small loss, and it's ... and you move on. But the acceptance part is that you realize, "Okay, this has happened. This is part of who I am. This is part of my life story one way or another, and I'm going to move on with life."


Michael:
      And you can choose to move on, accept it and move on and learn from it, learn from the lessons. Sometimes the lessons take years to be found in some of these things, but there can be, but you move on. What is tricky about this is to believe when something happens, that you're moving on to acceptance. Denial sometimes looks like what you're really doing is you're saying, "Oh, I'm just accepting it. I'm accepting the truth. It just is what it is." And what has happened is you're denying the emotional part of it. It's not denying so much the event, I think. Now that I'm saying this out loud, I don't think it's denying the event nearly as much as it's denying the emotional impact the event had on us.


Kathryn:
      Well, I think sometimes, especially as leaders in an organization, we have this sense that we're supposed to be able to keep everything under control all the time, therefore, "I can't really go through anger and bargaining and depression. Those are not options for me." So we kind of just choose denial and call it acceptance. We really do live in that place where we're just trying to say, "I'm really okay, it's not that big of a deal." When the reality is different than that. Well, the warning really is that you just have to allow yourself, whether it's a big loss or a small loss, you have to allow yourself to go through these stages, and hopefully begin to be able to recognize those in your staff, so that you can actually become healthy faster and not impact your organization negatively.


Kathryn:
      Because denying it and thinking that you're okay, actually will have a long term impact on your organization. You end up getting angry at all the wrong things. You end up with a short fuse, and nobody knows why, or everybody knows why, but you're not willing to own that it isn't actually about them, it's about you. And so those kinds of issues begin to compound in your leadership, simply because you're not dealing with your own pain.


Michael:
      Well, and one of the other things that can happen, some of the consequences of ignoring this process is you can become more despondent, more disengaged at work. Everybody's been through a phase, including leaders, entrepreneurs, where you're in that phase where you're just like, "You know what, I've lost kind of the fun. I've lost the point. I'm just kind of frustrated."


Kathryn:
      You've lost that loving feeling.


Michael:
      "I've lost that loving feeling." But you get into this situation where you, as leaders, if you're not dealing with grief, you can become more and more disengaged from work, "I don't care, whatever." Matter of fact, in the middle of this, we had to meet with the board of directors of a company, for three years, we'd been working with this company, but I'd never met with their board of directors or their volunteer board.


Kathryn:
      And never want to again.


Michael:
      They have an individual on their board that is incredibly challenged and difficult to deal with, and I had been told about them. I had just finished the funeral 36 hours before, and this person just kind of started going after us in ways that had nothing to do with what our contract was or anything else, and instead of being gracious, I didn't have-


Kathryn:
      The reserves.


Michael:
      I didn't have the reserves, that's a really good way. I didn't have the reserves to be gracious, or to be diplomatic, or to handle this in a way so I could turn it towards our advantage, and help win this person over who was very frustrated for multiple reasons that had nothing to do with us.


Kathryn:
      No. Everything about his own agenda.


Michael:
      And all of a sudden, I didn't explode the way most people would say explode, but I went to a level four or level five-


Kathryn:
      He actually said the words, "I don't care about your problem."


Michael:
      "About your problem, about your issue."


Kathryn:
      "About your agenda." I was like, "Okay, well, that was a fun client to have. It's been a good time."


Michael:
      Because of this, and this is what happens, it sucks your reserves so you can make poor decisions or not have the energy. I knew what I was doing when I was doing it, and no longer had the capacity to hold myself back, and I just wanted to say what was on my mind, because I was unhappy with this person, and I did. Well, no, I didn't. I didn't say everything that was on my mind, I reserved some. But there's moments in life where you just want to tell somebody they're misbehaving, and I did it. I wish I'd had more tact.


Kathryn:
      I do think you made half the staff happy, but that's just a perspective.


Michael:
      I think I made all the stuff happy, because the staff never gets to say anything about that.


Kathryn:
      Enjoy being a consultant.


Michael:
      And we didn't lose the opportunity at all. I mean, basically, the CEO of the organization really didn't have a problem with it at all, which was amazing to us, because I had gone beyond what I feel is appropriate, and that was not okay. But that was because of the grief, that was because of the exhaustion of all that was going on. And realizing that that's what was going on, allowed me to treat it in certain ways. One of the things you can do to treat grief is you've got to acknowledge it, you've got to say it out loud, you've got to talk about what it is. Whether you've gone through it before, those of you listening, those two of you that are listening, you may have experienced-


Kathryn:
      It's down to one now.


Michael:
      Down to one. You may have experienced something before, and you're going, "Yeah, I see that." Or you may be going through something right now, and I just want to encourage you, just I'm sorry that it's so powerfully painful at the moment, the hard things you're going through. I just want to encourage you that you can make it through, but just acknowledging out loud that this is hard, and being able to say what is hard about it is part of it.


Kathryn:
      Yeah. Well, and giving yourself grace for the process.


Michael:
      Yeah.


Kathryn:
      Because when you don't do things perfectly because of grief, and you lash out at someone or whatever, being able to give yourself grace.


Michael:
      It's not okay to throw up on people now, but understanding that when you do and you're disappointed with yourself, don't let that compound. And I'll tell you, one of the things that is super, super important after you've acknowledged what's going on, acknowledge that it's hard or painful, whatever level, or it will have an effect on you, whether you think it will or not, is make sure you get lots of sleep. Watch your sleep, watch your water intake and watch your nutrition. Because those three things, if you get extra sleep, and make sure you're getting enough water and you're not dehydrated, and you're watching your nutrition, can really, really radically help you get through this grieving phase.


Michael:
      As long as the event itself is over, and doesn't take into account things that are taking a while, because it took a while for us to go through the process with my grandmother, but it's over, and my grandfather is ... Everybody's glad she's not in pain, and we're on the backside of it. I tell you what, just having a few long nights of sleep and taking a weekend and not doing much and making sure that my body was resting, radically helped my emotions and my disposition and my mental acuity. It was really important, and it happened with our employees too. We are a holistic marketing and advertising consulting firm here at Half a Bubble Out, and what you're hearing today is one part of what we believe makes really successful entrepreneurs and really successful companies.


Michael:
      It's not just the bottom line, not just the financials, not just the balance sheet, but the emotional health and attitude of the people in the organization. Whether you're a lone entrepreneur, and you're just doing this all yourself, or you have a staff of two, three, four hundred, or somewhere in between, these things impact it. We want to make sure that you are talking about real life issues that hopefully are helpful and educational to you. And whether you know this, and this is a good reminder, hopefully, or you have never heard this stuff before, and this is the first time. This is the type of consulting and help we give our clients at a time when it's appropriate to support, encourage, to educate, train and advise.


Michael:
      And we do that at Half a Bubble Out. So if any of that actually sounds interesting to you or helpful to you, then we encourage you to go to halfabubbleout.com, and give us a call, fill out a contact form. We'd love to talk to you about your business, and helping you become a happier, healthier Passion and Provision company.


Kathryn:
      Thanks for joining us today.


Michael:
      Thank you very much. Thank you for spending the time to listen to a subject that's important to us and to all of us. And we just wish you a joyful and great week. Bye-bye.