There are so many sad things going on in our world right now. Pandemic. Challenges in Afghanistan. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Social and civil unrest throughout our world. When things feel out of control, it’s easy to disassociate from it all and feel powerless. While there are certainly many things in this world we cannot change, there are some things we can influence. One of these things is how we treat others.
Now more than ever, it's important to recognize how grief impacts our employees, classmates, and friends and what we can do to help. As we've watched the series of events unfold in Afghanistan, it's likely that you and those around you are feeling some sort of way (I know I am!).
Because of this, I wanted to share a TED Talk from Tilak Mandadi, former Executive Vice President of Digital Experiences at Disney Parks Experiences and Products. In his talk, Tilak mentions the importance of return-to-work therapy and empathy training (Mandadi, 2020).
Tilak’s empathy advocacy began when he tragically lost his daughter in 2017. At 19 years old, Cayley Mandadi was allegedly raped and murdered by her boyfriend. The beating was so bad that Cayley was barely recognizable when she arrived at the hospital. After Tilak made his way through the painful experience of putting his daughter to rest, he was left with a big decision: should he return to work (Mandadi, 2020).
While it was challenging, Tilak has been glad that he returned, finding the experience therapeutic, and feels that his co-workers have benefited as well (Mandadi, 2020).
“When you lose the most precious thing in your life, you gain a lot of humility, and a very different perspective free of egos and agendas, and I think I'm a better coworker and a leader because of that.” (Mandadi, 2020)
While no one would ever choose to lose their parent or their child in such horrific ways, I do believe that my husband is a better coworker, leader, and all-around person because of what he went through. To Tilak’s point, when you lose the thing most precious to you, you gain gratitude for every moment you have and resilience to get through the tough ones.
Tilak mentions 3 key ways that he feels companies can support grieving employees.
The first is putting policies in place such as ample time-off that allow employees to recover in peace. The second includes return-to-work therapy as a part of the health benefits package. Lastly, providing empathy training for all employees to foster support (Mandadi, 2020).
When the 9/11 Surviving Children lost their parents, they didn’t need a return-to-work plan, but we’ve seen that they’ve benefited immensely from therapy. In addition, I can only imagine how much they would have appreciated if those they encountered had gone through empathy training. It would have most likely saved them from many trying conversations.
Tilak didn’t choose his tragedy. But because of it, he is a better leader who can advocate for better company policy. As the 9/11 Surviving Children are now in the workforce, they too can be advocates for change. The same can be said for anyone who has experienced grief and hasn’t found that their company supports a safe place to bring their full selves to work. The empathy you gain as you walk lives most challenging times can become your superpower to shape the way we live and work.
What about those of us who aren’t 9/11 Surviving Children? How can we take what we’ve learned and bounce forward? Chances are we’ve all been in a storm of our own before if we aren’t walking through one right now. For me, finding that greater purpose has meant continuing to share my story. The more I’ve shared, the more I’ve realized that I’m not alone, and countless others are also walking this same path. Through that I’ve been able to find a community of people who will sit with me in my pain. I’ve learned how to be that person for myself as well.
In the book, we dive deeper into this and other ways that the 9/11 Surviving Children inspire us to turn tragedy into triumph and I hope you’ll get to read it. It’s when we take these ideas off the page that we are able to create long lasting impacts in our communities.
For the first 30 days, the e-book for Rise From the Ashes will be available for $0.99 on Amazon. Click here link to purchase!
Mandadi, Tilak. “3 Ways Companies Can Support Grieving Employees.” TED. October 2020. Accessed June 05, 2021. https://www.ted.com/talks/tilak_mandadi_3_ways_companies_can_support_grieving_employees?language=en.