How do I deal with fate

Dealing with strokes of fate from colleagues: tips, no-gos, examples

Life is full of surprises - but unfortunately these are not always positive. (Almost) everyone has to cope with a stroke of fate sooner or later, be it the death of a loved one, an illness, a miscarriage and so on. As an outsider, it is not always easy to deal with such a situation appropriately, especially if you are more distant colleagues than best friends. So how do you behave properly when a colleague suffers a stroke of fate?

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1. A stroke of fate can change your whole life - or the person
2. Strokes of fate in the professional environment: excessive demands and insecurity
3. "Right" or "Wrong" always depend on the individual situation
4. Situation 1: Personal contact with the person concerned
5. Situation 2: Affected person stays away from work for the time being
6. Attention: What you should not (!) Do or say ...
7. Tips for managers: How do you as a boss deal with the stroke of fate?
8. Conclusion: Humanity is required in the event of a stroke of fate

A stroke of fate can change your whole life - or the person

Strokes of fate are a difficult subject. After all, nobody likes to grapple with the painful experiences they had to go through in their life or what could happen to their loved ones (or even to themselves) in the future. Illness, death & Co - these are issues that trigger fear and discomfort and which we are therefore only too happy to suppress in everyday life. At least until there is no other way - because we ourselves or people in our social environment are confronted with it directly. Strokes of fate are one of the defining events in life.


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Not only can you (completely) change a life situation from one moment to the next, but also the person concerned. If someone in your professional environment should suffer a stroke of fate, you have to be prepared for the fact that this person could change in the short or long term. She is now in an absolutely exceptional situation. And even if you can't really help him or her with this, you certainly want to Behave “appropriately”. But what does that even mean?

Strokes of fate in the professional environment: excessive demands and insecurity

With relatives or close friendships, it is often easier for an outsider to deal appropriately with a stroke of fate. After all, you can talk openly with each other, maybe weep, maybe spend the night together to give comfort, maybe held hands at the funeral.

In the professional environment (or with more distant acquaintances), however, many outsiders feel overwhelmed by the situation. You want to express sympathy but not offend your colleague. It's a fine line: On the one hand, you don't want to simply ignore the situation and thereby appear indifferent, on the other hand, you also don't want to open wounds or interfere too much in the private life of the person concerned. Strokes of fate in the professional environment therefore often cause excessive demands and insecurity among colleagues.

"Right" or "wrong" always depends on the individual situation

Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with any guidelines on how to behave specifically in the event of a bereavement in your professional environment. Which behavior is ultimately to be assessed as “right” or “wrong” always depends on the individual situation - the type of stroke of fate and how the person concerned deals with it. So there is a lot at this point empathy asked. A distinction must be made here between two situations:

Situation 1: Personal contact with the person concerned

Not everyone can take a leave of absence from work due to a stroke of fate. While some first need time for themselves, the organization of a funeral or perhaps even psychotherapeutic treatment, others try to get back to "normal" everyday life as quickly as possible. So if the person concerned appears in person at the workplace, let them arrive briefly and then approach them at a suitable moment. Express your concern, for example as follows:

“I just wanted to express my sincere condolences to you for a moment. If I can help you in any way in the near future or support you with a project, please do not hesitate to contact me! "

If you are perhaps a little closer, the following formulation would also be appropriate:

“Dear Max, I heard about your stroke of fate. My sincere condolences! If I can help you in any way or be of support, please do not hesitate to contact me. "

You have now expressed your condolences. If the person concerned is not (directly) looking for the conversation, withdraw again and first take the role of observer - inconspicuously, of course:

  • How does the person concerned behave in the coming days?
  • Does he seem composed or “off the track”?
  • Does he accept help or does he try “business as usual”?
  • Is he talking about what happened or is he trying to avoid the topic?

Now try to be aware of how the person concerned behaves, whether he wants help or a conversation and when (not). If you are unsure, it is better to be a little too passive than too offensive. You have already offered your support, so the person concerned will (hopefully) come to you on their own if they want to accept your offer.

Situation 2: Affected person stays away from work for the time being

Of course, it happens (at least) as often that the person concerned initially stays away from work. Either to deal with what happened, or because he is no longer able to work in the short or long term due to an accident or illness. Nevertheless, as a colleague, you should by no means ignore the stroke of fate. Send a letter of condolence or recovery card - gladly with flowers - and express your condolences and possibly your recovery wishes.

Example letter of condolence:

Dear Max,
We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of your wife. During this difficult time, comfort may come from the knowledge that you are not alone with grief. We would like to express our condolences to you, deeply touched. We will give you the best possible support in this difficult time. Feel free to contact us at any time!
(Source: Trauersendung.de)

Of course, not every colleague should write their own letter. Do this as a community, ideally in consultation with the manager. Accordingly, express your understanding and support together. If you maintain a closer relationship with the person concerned, you can also ask them whether and when a visit on your part is desired.

Warning: What you shouldn't (!) Do or say ...

Be sensitive when dealing with the colleague concerned. As mentioned earlier, it is better to deal with the situation passively than aggressively. After all, right now inappropriate actions or words can hurt deeply and put a lasting strain on your relationship with the person concerned. These No-gos It is therefore essential to avoid strokes of fate in the professional environment:

  • Build up pressure, like "Are you done with Project XXX?"
  • “Business as usual” - don't just ignore the situation.
  • Avoid empty words. If you offer your help, you will keep your promise when it is called for.
  • Do not ask every day (or even several times a day) about the well-being of the person concerned.
  • Have you ever experienced a similar situation? As long as the person concerned does not specifically ask about your experiences or tips, keep such stories to yourself. They are neither encouraging nor helpful.
  • Never give well-intentioned “tips” or “advice” like “Life goes on”.
  • Do not ask probing questions about the person's private life or the stroke of fate. If he wants to tell, he will do it by himself. If not, respect his choice.
  • See the positive in the situation? This may be a good outlook on life, but never try to impose it on the person concerned. Save yourself sayings like "At least he had a long life and a loving family"!
  • Also accept the limits that the person concerned sets. If he specifically says that he does not want to talk about the stroke of fate, avoid the topic from now on - unless he approaches you with it of his own accord.
  • Never downplay the situation, not even after a month or a year or even ten: Everyone needs a different amount of time to overcome a stroke of fate. Show patience and understanding - even if you are annoyed internally by the situation. Who knows if you won't one day need the patience and understanding of your colleagues yourself.

Tips for managers: How do you as a boss deal with the stroke of fate?

Even as the superior of the employee who has suffered a stroke of fate, you are of course well advised with these tips and no-gos. But there are still more challenges ahead of you, after all, you are in one Tension between humanity, empathy and understanding on the one hand and your economic responsibility, time pressure or performance evaluations on the other. For you, “life goes on” - in other words, business - but not for your employees. So how do you as the boss deal with a stroke of fate in the team?

  1. understanding is now the alpha and omega. Show yourself from your human side and demonstrate to the person affected that you can understand their situation. Be lenient if he does his job more slowly or with poorer quality than usual. This is the only way to generate trust.
  2. It can make more sense for both sides if you do that Look for a one-on-one conversation and clarify whether and how you can best support the person concerned in their situation. Possibilities are part-time offers, a leave of absence or the (temporary) reallocation of tasks and areas of responsibility.
  3. Let the affected employee know first removed from the rating system until he feels better and "normality" has returned.
  4. Also show after this initial interview engagement. For example, you can now arrange weekly, bi-weekly or monthly employee appraisals to inquire about the current state of affairs of the person concerned and to adapt the work situation to current changes if necessary.
  5. Accept the exceptional situation of the person concerned and be sure to look for that too Talk to the team. Prepare them for the situation, give them specific instructions for action and plead for understanding, patience and support. Punish abusive or reckless behavior by employees towards the person concerned.
  6. Show you - as well as your employees - patience and understanding. If, in your opinion, the stroke of fate throws the person off course “too much” or “for too long”, seek a trusting dialogue and suggest that the person concerned seek professional help with the grief work, for example from a therapist.

Conclusion: In the event of a stroke of fate, humanity is required

We live in a business world in which an employee quickly becomes a "number". Those who don't work often go through hell, be it because of bullying or even being fired. But right now in the event of a stroke of fate, humanity is asked again - from superiors and colleagues. Performance, productivity or “robot-like” functioning should finally take a back seat. In the end, we are all just human beings and a stroke of fate is the worst possible scenario in life. It's good when colleagues and managers then know how to deal with the person affected - and how not. And maybe it also reminds you that humanity should not only find its way back into the professional world in such exceptional situations, but more generally.

Or what do you think? How do you handle strokes of fate with your colleagues or employees? What nice and not so nice reactions have you perhaps already seen in your professional environment? Or what has (not) helped you yourself to deal with a stroke of fate? We are grateful for your tips and opinions in the comments!

Photo credit: Nok Lek / Shutterstock.com

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