Professional athletes, domestic violence, and due process

Adrian Peterson in 2011. Photo by Mike Morbeck.

It has been kind of a rough time for fans of professional football. Game statistics and conversations about next week’s match-ups have so often been replaced by reports of players involved in domestic violence and child abuse. The NFL and its culture have been vocally called into question by sports reporters, abuse experts (real and not so real), politicians with a cause, and attention seekers simply looking for some time in the spotlight. Despite the dubious qualifications of some commentators, the accusations themselves are serious and attention does need to be paid to the evidence. Though in the rush to judge, doesn’t it seem like true due process has been forgotten?

Early in my professional career, I worked with victims of physical, sexual, and verbal use. I worked with people whose cases I would not even begin to detail here because of how traumatic they were. Some of the victims had been abused for years. A very natural reaction was to want to punish the alleged perpetrators of the abuse; and the temptation was to do so even before the full situation was known and understood.

Diligent investigation and preponderance of evidence is needed to clearly determine if someone accused of abuse is guilty or innocent. If judged guilty, the question then becomes, “Is this someone who needs to be jailed in order to protect the victim or public?” Cases are often complicated, and, even when the abuser is guilty, punishment does not always serve the best interests of either the victim or the public.

One of my clients was at a stage in his life where he was too old to be a boy and too young to be a man. He had experienced very serious physical abuse at the hands of his father. The dad in this case ended up in jail, in part because of the abuse he dished out, but also due to drug and alcohol issues.

My client – let’s call him Sam – began to act out after his father had gone to jail. Sam’s mom was parenting three other young children and having difficulty making ends meet. She was relying on Sam to be more of a man than he was ready to be. After hearing from other adult family members (not his mom) that his dad was a bad person, Sam came to the conclusion, “If my dad is a bad person, then I must be bad too.” He then acted out that belief by getting into trouble in school and with law enforcement.

While Sam’s mom was angry at what his father had done, she made it clear she did not think of him as a bad person. Their marriage had been mostly positive until the last few years when he began to drink heavily and use amphetamines. She said Sam’s father had come from a family that drank heavily and neglected their children. Her hope was that he would be sent to chemical addiction treatment, which would give him the opportunity to get his life back together. The courts felt that the family needed protection, so they instead sent him to jail.

There are some in my profession who will say Sam’s mom did not have a clear picture of his father and had aligned with the aggressor, also making her a victim. This does happen and is part of what makes due process complicated in these situations.

The reality was that Sam’s father was actually a pretty good man who was suffering from the disease of addiction complicated by his own experiences of trauma. Further due diligence by Children’s Protective Services, encouraged by Sam’s mother and the adolescent treatment program Sam was attending, led to Sam’s father getting help. He got sober and, in dealing with his own past, was able to be a role model to Sam, helping Sam understand that neither he or his father were bad people. Sam was able to get his “act together” and stay out of trouble.

My point in sharing the above case is this: due diligence is important, and it’s important whether it is an accusation of abuse in a family or sexual harassment in a business. Emotionally reacting to evidence and making rash decisions before a thorough investigation often leads to more hurt and pain.

Safety and justice for all parties is important and the severity of a complaint alone is not sufficient reason to discipline or punish. My hope is that your business or organization has in place the policies and personnel to handle complaints efficiently, effectively, and with integrity.

If you want to talk about due process in your work place and explore how you can make it the kind of place people want to work and employees want to stay, give us a call at The Village Business Institute (1-800-627-8220). We will be delighted to talk with you.

Village Business Institute offering family mediation to help families with difficult decisions

John Trombley, Organization Development Consultant and Trainer

John Trombley of The Village Business Institute is now offering family mediation, to help families deal difficult or potentially contentious issues. Mediation can be a lower-cost alternative to going to court and potentially allow the individuals involved to retain more control over the outcome.

What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a process of resolving family disputes through the use of a neutral third party, someone who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome. Family mediators help foster discussion and negotiation that allow the participants to develop options, consider alternatives, and find solutions that are acceptable to everyone involved.

Family mediators do not make the decisions. Instead they help move the decision-making process forward and keep it on track.

When is Family Mediation appropriate?
Mediation helps work families work through issues and resolve disputes while avoiding the conflict and arguments that can arise in the midst of difficult or emotionally-charged circumstances and decision-making, such as:

  • Divorce (child-rearing arrangements, child support, spousal maintenance, dividing of property and debt, etc.)
  • Cohabitation and non-marital parenting
  • Estate planning
  • Care of elderly family members
  • Family businesses
  • Probate of estates

Why use a Family Mediator?
Family mediation gives you control, rather than the judge or court, and reduces the expense of court proceedings. When children are involved, family mediation allows for mutual decision-making instead of high-conflict and court-ordered solutions. Family mediation also helps preserve the relationship between the participants, which is especially important when children are involved and ongoing contact between the participants is necessary.

How does Family Mediation Work?
Two hours will be scheduled for your initial mediation session. During the first session, you will spell out your goals for the mediation process. (All of the issues that need to be decided do not have to be included in the mediation. We encourage participants, whenever possible, to work agreements out on their own, and use mediation only for those issues about which they can’t otherwise agree.)

After determining the goals, the mediator will help guide the discussion aimed at helping you reach an agreement on the issues that need to be settled. To the degree that it is possible, a list of points of agreement will be provided to each mediation participant before they leave the session. If an agreement is not reached in all the areas that you wish to settle, additional sessions can be scheduled at that time.

What does it cost?
The Village charges $200/hour for family mediation. Those fees will be collected prior to beginning the mediation session in accordance with The Village’s procedures.

How do I get started?
For more information about VBI’s family mediation, contact John Trombley at (800) 627-8220 or email jtrombley@thevillagefamily.org.


About the Mediator
John E. Trombley is registered as a Qualified Neutral under Minnesota’s ADR Rule 114 with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota, and is trained in Family Mediation through the Mediation Center at the Hamline University School of Law. He is also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management. John has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard — he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with more than 6,200 flying hours.

How to lead like a Roosevelt

VBI corporate trainer Dawn Kaiser

By Dawn Kaiser
The Village Business Institute 

Have you ever had someone you’ve never met influence your life? For me those individuals are the Roosevelts – in particular Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. I remember learning a little bit about Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt in school as we studied the Presidents of the United States, but I don’t ever remember hearing Eleanor’s name. That is until 2002, when Robin Gerber published her book, “Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way.” This remarkable author examined Eleanor’s life and leadership and used these lessons to challenge women everywhere to take greater leadership roles.

I have learned hundreds of lessons as a “student” of Eleanor. Here are just a few.

  1. Be flexible and adaptable: Leaders must be open to change and take decisive, bold action when changes happen in order to lead others through the change versus letting them stay stuck in the past.
  2. Align your values and your projects: No matter what the critics said, Eleanor adhered to her values and made sure that they aligned with the projects she took on as a leader. She did not let others steer her away from doing what she thought was right.
  3. Take personal responsibility: One of my favorite quotes from Gerber’s book is “We are personally responsible for who we become, who we choose to be.” There were many setbacks in Eleanor’s life, but she did not let them stop her from achieving great things. Each of us need to take accountability for the choices we make in life.
  4. Put your heart into your work: Eleanor once said “Work is easier to carry if your heart is involved.” As leaders, we need to lead with compassion, courage and character, all of which require a leader to lead from the heart. Feel free to email me at dkaiser@thevillagefamily.org if you want to read an article I wrote on this topic called “The Heart of a Leader.”
  5. Be an advocate: One of the greatest lessons I learned from Eleanor was to be a voice for and to help those in need. I once googled her name and found out she once belonged to an organization called Altrusa Club of New York City. Then I discovered we had an Altrusa Club here in Fargo. Of course, I quickly joined the local club and now, as acting President, I get to be an advocate for and promote literacy, education and leadership for people in our community and around the world.  Find us on Facebook at Altrusa International of Fargo.

As I mentioned earlier, Eleanor is not the only Roosevelt who has influenced my life. Through Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” I immediately was inspired by an excerpt from Theodore’s speech about the “Man in the Arena,” which reads:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Those amazing and profound words continue to inspire me to take risks as a leader. To forge ahead even when others say it can’t be done or it looks too hard. It gives me the courage to show my vulnerability as a person and as a leader because I do not just want to survive but rather I want to thrive in life and work.

Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932

Finally, Franklin D. Roosevelt has influenced my life not through his well-known quote of “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but rather through his words, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”  This was actually told to me by my dad my senior year of college and he told me that no matter what life brings, there will always be people to help me, I just need to be willing to ask. I don’t know about you, but asking for help is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. As a leader, though, we have to realize we can’t do everything on our own. And when we ask for help, we are inviting people into the journey, the vision, or the project, and it creates a better outcome.

This past weekend I watched Ken Burns’ documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” on PBS and it reminded me again how much these three individuals have influenced my life and my leadership. They are not perfect leaders; nor are we. But each of us are “fellow travelers on the road to a better world.” As you journey through life, think about the legacy you are leaving. Maybe one day someone will write an article about a person who has influenced their life, and the person they mention will be YOU. Live Well. Lead Well. Labor Well.


 Author Bio

Dawn Kaiser is an inspirational educator, joyologist, blogger, altruist and positive thought leader. She specializes in heart-driven leadership, positive psychology and personal achievement. Dawn focuses on helping hundreds of clients all over the world thrive both personally and professionally in life through her work at The Village Business Institute.

Which way do you face when the winds of change blow?

By Denise Hellekson
Clinical Associate at The Village Business Institute 

Change is definitely in the air once again; back to school, busier schedules, less sunlight, cooler temperatures; you can feel the changes coming.

I have been reluctant to let go of the thought and feeling of summer this year. As much as I like the fall season, I just haven’t felt ready for the change. About a week ago, I was in my yard enjoying the warm temperatures, the sunlight and the summer breeze when a neighbor told me one of our other neighbors was going to be moving. My heart dropped.

We live in a nine-unit condominium, and this was the third neighbor in about three months who was leaving.  Most of my neighbors have been here for five-plus years, and it has become familiar, comfortable.

“More changes I’m not ready for,” I thought.

My mind began racing with fears of the unknown; “Who will move in? What if they’re loud or rude? Maybe I should move? Why am I here? How will this work? Not only is summer ending, but now I’ll be stuck with new (translation: bad) neighbors.”

The more irrational my thoughts became, the more I felt myself tensing up from the stress. I felt stuck and powerless, and panic started to set in as I strained to come up with something that would stop the inevitable changes I was dreading. Not so surprisingly, I couldn’t come up with any (hence the word inevitable), which only made me stress more. All I could think was, “I’m not ready! I don’t want my world to change!”

Thankfully, (I think my mindfulness practices are starting to pay off), there was a moment where I could step back and observe my reaction, and I realized this was just fear talking. The moment I became aware of it and could label it, the intensity went away. I felt as if I had been facing into the winds of change and bracing myself against the inevitable, trying not to be knocked-off of my familiar, comfortable place. I realized when I brace myself against the inevitable, I make myself small and close myself off in an effort to cling to what I want (as opposed to what is). I react with sadness, defensiveness and fear to a force that feels much more powerful than me.

By Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

A small voice inside of me said, “What if you just turned around? What if you were open to the changes and the new opportunities/possibilities they bring?”

I started to relax. It was a breezy day, and so I did just that; I turned my back to the breeze, closed my eyes, opened my arms and breathed deeply. It felt good. I felt open, and the fear was replaced with anticipation. I realized if I go with the current, I can see what’s coming; I can participate in the changes instead of being backed into them. I felt lighter. I stayed there for a few minutes, feeling the sun and the breeze on my back, and breathing deeply. The sense of well-being stayed with me the rest of the day, and my stress about new neighbors seems to be gone.

But change being what it is; I’ve had a couple of other occasions since that day where I have begun to tense up and brace myself against the unknown. It has helped to remind myself to turn around, breathe deeply, go with the current, and be open.

Which way do you face when the winds of change begin to blow?

‘Leading Through Change’ webinar Sept. 4

John E. Trombley of The Village Business Institute will offer “Leading Through Change,” a leadership webinar, 11 a.m. – noon, Sept. 4. Click here to register for the webinar.

About the webinar: When we make changes in our organization, we don’t want people to just survive – we want them to thrive. This webinar will help leaders identify things they need to pay attention to for their change initiative to be successful. We will look at the forces impacting people in the change environment and learn ways to harness those forces so people will arrive intact on the far shores of the change process.

About John Trombley: John E. Trombley, MMgt, organization development consultant/trainer with The Village Business Institute.
John Trombley is an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer with The Village Business Institute. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, Trombley served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, he has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas such as leadership development, change management, Leadership Transition processes, managerial coaching and personality assessment workshops among others. Trombley is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

History journey reminds writer of need to nurture connections


By John E. Trombley, MMgt
The Village Business Institute

My wife and I took a much needed vacation to Virginia in May this year, a state with roots deeply planted in our nation’s rich, but relatively young, history. It was just the two of us; no other family members, no obligations, no schedule to follow, and no guilt! In fact, just prior to leaving, I had upgraded my cellphone and messed up connecting my work email to the phone. The serendipity is that I was completely unplugged from work. It was just what the doctor ordered.

For us, we don’t consider trips for weddings, funerals, and family obligations to be in the same category as a true vacation. Not that we have a problem with doing any of those things; it’s just not the same as “getting away from it all.” We just happen to be at a different point in life, I guess, and we have come to realize that the busy-ness of life can easily overwhelm and stifle our ability and desire to be more, well, connected to each other. We’ve come to realize that when we aren’t connected, everything else is affected in the same way.

So there we were in Virginia (“Virginia is for lovers!”) with no relatives in sight and we took time to just be with each other and reconnect those disjointed pieces and parts. Then we began to explore the incredibly rich heritage that was planted by those whose sacrifice made it possible for us to enjoy the splendor and beauty of our nation today. We visited Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and got a glimpse into what it took to survive and thrive 250 years ago at the time of our nation’s birth. We were blown away not only with the history and grandeur of the place, but also with the complexity of what it took to run a household of that size, and the physical labor (provided by slaves) to make it so magnificent and so functional. Clearly today, we all recognize slavery as the abomination that it was. There is no way to justify it. It is also too easy and too simple, to vilify, judge and condemn the practices and beliefs of a people living in a place and time so different from our experiences today. They did what they did because that is what they knew to do. Still, we found ourselves shaking our heads at that sad history and wondered if we, too, would have been any different in our beliefs and attitudes. I’d like to think so, so it was somewhat gratifying to learn that even though Jefferson was a slave owner, he was not in favor of the practice, but found himself trapped in the grim political and fiduciary realities of the day. As a result, the slaves of Monticello were known to be the best treated and best provided for in the region.

Then we stepped even farther back into history as we visited the still very active archeological site of the first successful British colony in America at Jamestown. With history being re-written there almost daily, I began to reflect on what it must have been like in 1607 for those early settlers in what is now known as “Historic Jamestowne;” to leave all that was familiar in England to eke out a meager existence in a new world, knowing they would never see friends and family again. Many of them met an early demise brought on by disease, starvation, or conflict with the native people of the area. Wholly unprepared for what they would face and what it would take to survive, these first settlers were nonetheless intrepid sojourners upon whose sacrifice a nation would be built.

Imagine: No cell phones; no email; no computers; no social media; no TV; no quick trips to the grocery store to stock up on worthless junk food before the next big storm hits; no racing around trying to fill the day with “stuff” in the hopes of finding meaning and purpose; no planning vacations to get away from it all. Just the slow, steady, unrelenting pursuit of trying to stay alive for one more day on a patch of ground smaller than most people have in average-sized neighborhoods today. And we think we have it tough when the power goes out for a couple of hours or the battery in our cell phone dies and we feel so isolated from the rest of the world.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how really fortunate I am to have been born in a day and age when I can do just about anything I want, go just about anywhere I want, and eat just about anything I want, just about any time that I want. I would not have fared well as a Jamestown settler.

Not far from Jamestown we stood on the hallowed grounds of the Battle of Yorktown where the final, decisive battle of the Revolutionary War was fought.  It was here that, for three weeks in the fall of 1781, the Continental and French armies engaged in the grinding resolve of battle to defeat British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, an event that struck at the heart of British power and collective psyche. The trenches and revetments are still there today, along with several cannon pieces and the ghosts of the dead on both sides, and suddenly I sensed the connection to those souls through time and space. In a heartbeat I was hurled back in time and reminded that this same battleground saw even more blood spilled between brothers of a fledgling nation. Less than 80 years later it was the sight of bitter, pitched battles between soldiers of the Union Army and the Confederacy as our young nation struggled to define what was good, right, and just for us as a people.

A profound sense of awe and reverence, and a deep sense of gratitude gripped me like a vise in a way I’ve never quite experienced before, and I realized once again how small and how fragile I really am, and I found myself wanting to ensure the connections in my own life are well-attended, healthy, and less self-focused.

It takes a life-long process of engagement to nurture those relationships that we often take so easily for granted. The busy-ness of life and the mindless running around that we tend to believe is so important to our finding happiness pales when we take the time to listen to the sound of the breeze in the trees, the bird’s song as it flies by, children laughing and squealing with delight, and playing as children do, and, indeed, the sound of our own heartbeat when the silence finally creeps in between our cluttered thoughts and “to do” lists.

Take time today to tell someone you care. Thank someone today for doing what they normally do because you notice it and it makes a difference no matter how great or small. Slow down today to reprioritize your values and connect with people by focusing on them for a change—even if it’s only for a few minutes. Today, breathe in the deep sense of awe, admiration and gratitude for those who have gone before you in nameless, faceless ranks marching off into history – both recent and distant – so that you can have what you have today.

And then today, determine to create a legacy of your own so that others may one day enjoy their lives with a deeper appreciation and sense of wholeness as well. None of us are promised tomorrow. Live life with purpose and passion today; leave nothing to chance!


Visit The Village Business Institute for information on resources for your business and employees. 

Minimize your focus to maximize your time at work



By Dawn Kaiser, Village Business Institute

Tell the truth: Do you answer your emails while talking to others on the phone or even during conference calls? Do you try to eat and work at your desk at the same time? Do you bring your laptop with you to training sessions and then pretend to take notes while you surf the net or work on other documents?

It’s not surprising that we are feeling overwhelmed and burned out because we are not mastering our time. Instead we are spending too many hours juggling too many things all at once for an extended period of time, which adds stress to our levels.

When you try to do too many things at one time, we actually drain our energy level over the course of the day. The best way for you to re-energize and refuel yourself is to actually do the opposite of what most individuals do and that is to minimize your focus in order to maximize your time. I know this from my own experience both in and outside of work. When I focus without interruption and concentrate on doing one thing at a time I get two to three times more work accomplished. This also allows me to then take a break and step away from desk in order to find a sense of real renewal. This isn’t an easy discipline to practice because our culture lifts up the multi-taskers, but truly when you start to look at the time management of highly successful people we find that they are able to set boundaries when it comes to their time that allow them to focus and bring their best to the table.

Here are a couple behaviors that are worthwhile disciplines to establish in your daily routines.

  1. Focus on getting information out before taking in. Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, encourages folks to work on an important project for 60-90 minutes before they check their email in the morning. Spend that time distraction free and then, once done, take a quick break and notice the difference in your energy.
  2. Identify your ONE Thing. Last year I came across a question from Gary Keller, the co-founder of the Keller Williams Realty. It changed how I tackled my day. He challenges individuals to ask “what’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Instead of worrying about a laundry list of tasks, you prioritize each activity and take them one at a time in order to move forward.
  3. Set aside thinking/quiet time. Each day create at least one time during the day when you stop working and spend time thinking or being quiet. Let your mind unwind and process all the information that has come in both directly and indirectly. Some of my best ideas come when I am the most still, which is not to say this is an easy discipline but it definitely helps me to get re-energized and be creative.

Stop living your life trying to do multiple things at once. We need to slow down in order to be our best selves and, rather than allow the time to master us, master our time.

For more tips and tricks on how to maximize your time, sign up for Dawn’s “Time Mastery” webinar at thevbistore.com.

Author Bio
Dawn Kaiser is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) trainer with The Village Business Institute. More about Dawn here.


The Village Business Institute’s unique team of professionals improve individual and organizational performance through business and organizational solutions. We serve both public and private organizations

VBI solutions include an employee assistance program, coaching, organizational development and strategic planning, workplace mediation, human resource consultation, critical incident stress management, management and employee training, career transition and outplacement services, and specialized services for nonprofits.

 

High-tech communication isn’t always best … even at a high-tech company



By Darrin Tonsfeldt
Division Director
The Village Business Institute

I recently had the opportunity to tour Menlo Innovations and hear its CEO, Richard Sheridan, speak on the way they work. The company is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and does software design and development. It’s the kind of business you would expect to have a very high-tech work environment. Well… there is high-end software design going on but their approach to process and teamwork is downright old fashioned. Not what I had expected.

One of the first things you notice as you walk into the facility is a relaxed, casual, open work environment. Work stations, with computers, are surrounded by people who are actually talking with each other. And it quickly becomes clear they are not just chit chatting; they are working.

As an introduction, Richard gave us an overview of the company and how they organize work. They use great big bulletin boards with cards listing projects and time estimates; with color-coded sticky dots to indicate the stage of the project. Richard made it clear they do not use project management software; their approach is high-touch and high-communication both with employees and customers. When asked why, Richard said it’s because direct communication, face-to-face, is far more efficient and effective. This is coming from an engineer who builds software.

Many of the employees at Menlo appeared to be of the millennial generation, folks we typically assume to be most comfortable with electronic communications. When asked how this generation has adapted to the Menlo culture, Richard said that team members understand programming takes place on the computers, while resolving problems and communicating with team members takes place by talking and interacting with each other. He said they not only get it—but they thrive in and enjoy this kind of work culture.

The takeaway, for me, from the tour at Menlo Innovations was to not get too carried away with e-mail, being paperless, web-based meetings, etc. The best solution to having a productive and fun work environment may just be having a culture that encourages people to talk to each other as they work together on project planning and completion. Richard Sheridan’s book “Joy, Inc.” is definitely on the top of my reading list.


If you want to talk about the culture in your workplace, call us at The Village Business Institute. We can help you explore how you can make your organization the kind of place where people want to work. Contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.TheVBI.com.

Grief and Loss in the Workplace



By Denise Hellekson
Clinical Associate, Village Business Institute

When I sit down to write a blog post, I always ask myself a couple questions. “What seems relevant?” “What have I been seeing and experiencing in the workplace?” This month the answer that came to me was grief and loss. I have watched friends and clients experiencing the loss of loved ones, health, relationships, and jobs. I have visited companies that have lost valued employees, I have read in the paper and seen on the nightly news, stories of loss impacting organizations and individuals alike, and I have struggled with my own loss experiences.

Grief and loss aren’t the first things that come to mind when we think of work. But loss is an inevitable part of life, and we feel its effects wherever we go. Considering how much of our time we spend at work and the close bonds that develop when we are working together toward the same goals, it makes sense that grief impacts our work life as well as our personal life.

When we are experiencing challenging times of loss, it can be easy to forget how grief affects us or what to expect. So, for those of you that might be struggling, let me help you remember in hopes of easing your worries and helping you cope.

When we experience loss, it’s easy to forget how grief affects us and what to expect. Here are a few reminders I hope will ease your worries and help you cope.

Grief is a normal, natural response to all losses in life. While understanding grief doesn’t make the pain go away, it may be helpful to know that deep, sometimes frightening reactions, are not unusual. As difficult as it may seem, we need to grieve—it is important to experience the pain and to express our emotions after a loss. When we avoid or deny the pain, we stop the healing process and leave ourselves vulnerable to physical and emotional distress.

Grief triggers grief. It is not unusual to have memories or flashbacks of other losses in our life when we are grieving a current loss. It doesn’t mean we haven’t worked through the other loss. Allow yourself to express and release the emotions that come up, and to honor the feelings without judgment.

Most of us have heard of the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Knowing about the stages can be helpful in normalizing an experience that doesn’t feel normal. Most of us don’t feel “like ourselves” when we are grieving. We can feel like we are not in control of our emotions, and we can be shaken by the quickly changing and intense emotions that come up.

Remembering the typical stages of grief can help us to move through the process with less fear. However, keep in mind that these stages are not necessarily linear or chronological (“I’ve been really angry this week so I should be in bargaining mode next week”). They are fluid; you may experience all of the stages or just some of them, and they last as long as they last. Do not add additional pressure and false expectations by giving yourself a timeline to grieve. There is no statute of limitations on grief, so be in the moment and know you will feel better when you feel better.

Along with the stages of grief there are also common symptoms such as shock and denial, sadness, guilt, anger, and fear. Physical symptoms may include muscle tension, sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite. Again, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling without judgment. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, it depends on many factors. Listen to yourself and trust what you feel compelled to do.

I remember recently when I was processing my own grief, I felt compelled to stay home, turn on soothing music, and make soup; lots of it. I didn’t want to eat it (I gave a lot away to friends and family) but it was the act of preparing something that brought me back to times when I felt nurtured and taken care of; it was an act of nurturing myself and creating a safe place to feel my vulnerability.

The bottom line is, while there are typical stages and common symptoms to the process, grief is unique to the person experiencing it. Honor your own process. Remember, too, that you may have a different grief reaction with each loss because you are reacting to a new and different loss.

Other Self Care Tips:

  • Take care of yourself. Grief is hard work, so try to get sufficient sleep, eat nutritious foods, and practice stress management.
  • Avoid being self-critical.
  • Don’t buy into other’s expectations of how you should grieve. Trust yourself and do what feels right for you.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Use your support systems and access additional community support as needed (support groups; counseling; etc.).
  • Find healthy ways to express your emotions. Cry, journal, talk to people you trust, use creative outlets, engage in physical activity to work through anger, etc.

Support for Co-Worker’s:

  • Keep in mind we each have our own unique experience when grieving.
  • Don’t compare your grief reactions to those of your co-workers; there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Don’t take it personally if co-workers are acting differently.
  • Communicate! Eliminate the stress of the unknown as much as possible. Let others know where you are at when it is appropriate, “I don’t think I’ll join you for lunch today. I’m feeling really sad and just need some time to myself. Let’s do lunch later this week.”
  • Be supportive. When you see others who seem to be having a difficult day, ask rather than assume. “You seem to be having a tough time this morning, is there anything I can do to help?” Grief can feel very isolating because it is so unique to each of us. Support and encouragement can go a long way in helping us heal.

One more thing to keep in mind for those of you who are experiencing the loss of someone you care about—as you move through the stages of grief (and you will), remember that your loved one is not connected to your mourning; your loved one is connected to you. As you begin to feel the light come back into your world, let it. Don’t be afraid that you are letting go of the person you care about by letting go of the pain. As Helen Keller once said, “Those we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose…for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”


The Village Business Institute’s unique team of professionals improve individual and organizational performance through business and organizational solutions. We serve both public and private organizations

VBI solutions include an employee assistance program, coaching, organizational development and strategic planning, workplace mediation, human resource consultation, critical incident stress management, management and employee training, career transition and outplacement services, and specialized services for nonprofits.

Providing great business service: Put the ‘extra’ in extraordinary



VBI corporate trainer Dawn Kaiser

When is the last time you were wowed by a customer service experience? For many of us the answers might be “I can’t remember the last time” or “I have never experienced that.” In our world today, our true competitive advantage is how we treat our customers. That is why it is extremely important that we provide not just ordinary customer service but extraordinary customer service. As someone once said, “if you don’t take care of your customers, somebody else is waiting, ready and willing to do it.”

The difference between ordinary service and extraordinary service really comes down to the five additional letters, “e.x.t.r.a.” Ask yourself how can you do extra for your customers? Author and speaker Barbara Glanz challenges us to “put our personal signatures on the job.” It is the little extra touches that matter, like when my car rental place has my car warmed up and running for me especially during our cold winters. Or the place you bank at offers you fresh baked cookies. Or when you walk into a place and they call you by name. (Of course it needs to be the right name.) Think about how you could surprise and delight your customers and then begin to try your ideas out and watch the reactions you get from your customers.

Another thing you can do to add “extra” to your service is to work from the heart. Have you ever visited a restaurant and you could immediately tell if your waiter or waitress really wants to provide you with service? I know I can. Well, your customers are no different. They can tell if your heart is in it. Stop looking at your job as a title or job description, and, instead, focus on how you make a difference in someone’s life. How can you make your customers feel special? How can you make their lives a little better today? It might be through a simple smile, talk in positive tones and words, asking a question to get to know your customers more.

It is important to realize that “We do not remember days. We remember moments in our lives.” Determine that each day you are going to wow your customers and provide that little extra that is going to leave a memory with them that they can’t wait to tell the whole world about. Please feel free to share in the comments section of this blog some examples of extraordinary service you have experienced. I would love to hear your stories.


Author Bio
As an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Trainer with The Village Business Institute, Dawn Kaiser lives her passion to energize, encourage and equip individuals to live stronger. She is an inspirational educator, writer, blogger, speaker, leader and positive-thinker extraordinaire. Dawn draws on more than twelve years of experience in the Human Resource/Organizational Development field and has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and a Master of Education. She is also a certified HR Professional. Dawn specializes in communication, leadership, high performance teams and personal development. Dawn also enjoys unleashing hope in her community and around the world through her speaking, writing and volunteer opportunities.