Grief is The Price we Pay For Love
We offer our condolences on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. We recognise this is a significant and historic moment which will impact many people in many different ways.
Queen Elizabeth II was the UK's longest-serving monarch and died at Balmoral aged 96, her reign lasting for 70 years. Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers starting with Winston Churchill, born in 1874, and finishing with Liz Truss, born 101 years later in 1975.
A quick read of social media will illustrate wide ranging emotions on the death of the Queen from Pro monarchy to Anti monarchy sentiment.
It can be really tough for organisations to know what to say or not say in times of significant change like this.
How do I support my employees?
How are my team feeling?
What if my workforce has conflicting views?
How can you communicate in a way that acknowledges all your employees with different backgrounds and beliefs?
The list of difficult but important questions is long:
Freedom To Be Human
Our vision at The Happiness Index is something we call Freedom To Be Human. It is our guiding light and shines brightly through good times and bad.
Freedom To Be Human is about organisations creating an environment where employees can thrive.
To thrive at work we all need access to the eight universal needs of; meaning and purpose, personal growth, clarity, enablement, safety, freedom, relationships and acknowledgement.
We have a global workforce so it is impossible for us to reflect how all our employees feel on any given event via one article. The range of emotions our employees have shared over the last week is diverse and we see that as a healthy part of our culture.
Our aim is to share insight from our work that can help our employees, customers and community in times of change.
We hope you find the following information useful.
The 3 most important of the 8 universal needs in times of change are Feelings of Acknowledgement, Psychological Safety, and Positive Relationships.
Here is some more information on them.
Feelings of Acknowledgement
What are they?
Acknowledgment is a feeling of emotional validation of who we are and what we are experiencing; the feeling of being heard.
Why are they so important?
The need for acknowledgement runs deep within us. We have very sophisticated sensory systems seeking out information about how we are impacting people around us at an emotional level. This enables us to constantly refresh our behaviour and to make adjustments, where needed. This is important validation for the mapping of our daily journey. We naturally seek recognition and feedback. Feedback is not just explicit, it includes the realm of subconsciously driven interactive triggers and cues which can challenge or endorse us, and excite or upset us. Without such validation, we feel isolated and lost, and unable to contribute effectively to our social group.
How can organisations respond?
Acknowledgement depends on a deeper understanding of human emotions and recognition of the need to feel heard and valued. Most people are well-intentioned but often rendered clumsy at handling feedback due a lack of awareness of interpersonal human dynamics. Organisations need to develop this awareness across the board so that employees are equipped to offer meaningful feedback in a supportive way. It also depends on a trusting culture: people will not share interpersonal insights if they perceive they will be mishandled or judged harshly.
When huge global events like this happen it will impact your employees. Whatever your personal views on monarchy or the queen yourself, it means change.
The key role here is for organisations to acknowledge that their employees will be experiencing wide ranging and differing emotions. Acknowledgement is not about policing emotions into what is right or wrong. It is important to not confuse an emotion with an action.
All emotions are simply how we feel, the resulting action may or may not be in line with your personal or company values but it is important to separate the two and not police how people feel.
What is it?
The sense that we are in a safe environment. This particularly means the people that we interact with.
Why is it so important?
If we feel unsafe, our brains are in survival mode. This has a material impact on our emotions and on our ability to engage and perform. Effectively we are only using the parts of our brain needed to help us survive. Consequently we struggle to access our own talents that are crucial to our ongoing success, such as seeing the bigger picture, commiting to the team, being creative, retaining objectivity and perspective, and thinking clearly. The list goes on. In survival mode, we will offer our organisation the bare minimum we need to keep our jobs, which means superficial compliance rather than genuine commitment. This will apply most obviously to matters of physical safety, but also to working in an atmosphere of mistrust, or feeling that the expectations placed on our workload are unrealistic. Each of these holds us back.
How can organisations respond?
This should be done collaboratively. Where possible the threats should be removed or at least reduced. In some cases, the threats may be an issue of perception rather than actual reality, but that does not make them any less potent. Organisational perception needs to be handled with sensitivity, integrity and honesty. Lack of trust is a big issue in many organisations. The opportunity cost associated with a distrusting culture is enormous.
What are they?
The experience of working relationships that sustain us emotionally.
Why are they so important?
The emotional system of the brain evolved with the specific purpose of enabling us to cooperate in social groups. Its primary role is to create bonding between us. We constantly respond to our emotional environment.
In organisations we have a deep-rooted need to experience fulfilling relationships with those we spend most time with. This includes those with our colleagues, our line managers and the teams we want to feel part of.
How can organisations respond?
Both positive experiences and relationship challenges need to be understood and discussed in a safe, trusted environment. Many working relationships can be improved through better mutual understanding, including communication styles and preferences. Third party facilitation can also be very helpful provided they are handled in a supportive, non-judgemental way. It is completely reasonable for misunderstandings to occur in our working lives.
Duality of Emotions
It is also worth noting that as human beings we can have conflicting emotions. Tom Ough wrote an article in the Independent titled:
‘I’m not a monarchist, but…’: Why are republicans grieving the Queen?
Many Brits who otherwise swear off the monarchy have admitted to experiencing pangs of grief in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death
- Tom Ough
The Happiness & Humans Community
Here are some insightful comments from the Happiness and Humans community.
“Not everyone is mourning the same thing some people are mourning their history and how it still impacts them today, take time to understand and listen to it. There is room for everyone.”
For members of the Church of England like me, the Queen was the Head of State and of our Church. Many of our daily, weekly and seasonal prayers involved her, meaning she was very much a part of our religious and social lives on a regular basis. As the Defender of our Faith, we relied on her strength of faith and also her ability to share her passion for Christ and our Church widely. This means that her loss will involve a change to the rhythms of our faith on a very real and ongoing basis.
It's worth bearing in mind that the loss of this pivotal member of our senior Church Leadership may well impact individuals of faith within your organisation.
Monarchs are considered to be Gods' representative on earth. Personally, as an agnostic, I cannot countenance that idea. But I can respect that other people believe this very deeply.
The events over the last few days have seen how individuals, who are also managers, directors, leaders of organisations, still struggle to hold space for voices and perspectives that don't match their world view. Often resorting to shutting down colleagues and/or labelling them as being difficult, divisive or playing the victim
The human brain is designed to make sense of the environment around it - it's designed to bring order to things, and whether you are royalist or not, one thing was constant in the UK, the Queen, this adaption will impact us all in different ways and the consistency void take some time to get used to.
The passing of the monarch has served as a reminder that as humans we are complex creatures; that conflicting emotions can exist in one person and that’s not something we can choose or control. The instinctive emotions that arise are just that. Instinctive. However I get to choose how I go forward with those emotions, and what I choose to do with them. I am empathetic to a family who have lost a Mother, a Grandma, a loved one. AND I am mourning the pain that is still felt today by those of the Global Majority everywhere. Both of those feelings are valid. Ultimately I hope that this entire situation will allow erased history to be told, and for the voices that society so often ignores, to be heard.
If we saw these responses as pathways to our own explorative work, would we still be so protective of our point of view?
Not a member of The Happiness and Humans Community but we do love this quote from John Amaechi.
My Mother told me before she passed that the magnitude of the pain or grief one feels at someone's passing is proportional to the magnitude of the love or connection felt in life.
I feel for all those who grieve and recognise that it is understandable that not all will grieve.
Regardless of your perspective, perhaps this moment is an opportunity to consider strengthening the connections each of us have with those still with us, while we still can.
Whatever your employees’ views on historical events, your employees require a safe space to feel how they feel.
Take time to listen and learn from each other.
It is an opportunity to acknowledge emotions, nurture positive relationships and build psychological safety.
We will give the last word on emotions in this post to the late Queen Elizabeth II
“Grief is the price we pay for love”
Freedom To Be Human.
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