This may be a strange thing to share on LinkedIn, which is exactly why I am sharing this information here: the strange habit of not expecting human employees to be humans at work needs to stop.
A colleague publicly questioned why I felt it was appropriate to take a mental health day to grieve this loss. “It was just a cat, not exactly family,” he shared in a post to a company Slack group. He made light of it again when that absolutely-not-urgent (if altogether unnecessary) meeting took place the next day and he questioned my professionalism to all in the room.
I felt awful, angry and abused. I was still exhausted and sad from dealing with Pantalaimon’s sudden passing, and I just wanted to get through the day, keep up with work and get home to recover more. Now this asshole was mocking my grief, questioning my professionalism and threatening my job.
And even though a couple of hours later the head of company randomly told me I was the strongest performer among my peers in a check-in meeting, I had made up my mind to move on.
The grieving period should be viewed no differently than if an employee takes sick days to recover from the flu. Grief often feels worse than illness, the toll is significant, and it is not something that can be ignored or repressed or delayed.
I recall how a friend used vacation days to grieve for the loss of her cat, and that’s just not right. She wasn’t enjoying a vacation (and as humans we need vacations), she was just not feeling herself (the same as anyone under the weather) and needed some time to stay home and get better.
Interfering with or belittling or diminishing the necessity of the grieving process will destroy an employee and destroy their trust in their employer.
Clearly, we are in the right place, and this experience on the receiving end of sympathy and support sets an important precedent for us going forward: if we are to achieve our goal of leading a successful team, we need to respect the emotional well-being of our team members, always.
Good team members are good people.
Good people often care for cats and dogs and other non-humans in their homes and consider those non-humans actual family.
Let them heal.