Loss Leaders: When the Unthinkable Happens

Thursday, October 28 | 1:15PM–2:00PM ET
Viewing Location: Online
Session Type: Poster Session
Delivery Format: Poster
When we search for leaders, we create job postings with keywords such as: change leadership, inspire and motivate, create culture, transform. We don’t use words like grief, tragedy, fear, loss, or sickness. These job posting keywords reflect precisely the leadership skills we need to lead our organizations through these painful experiences. Yet, we often feel at a loss when the unthinkable happens. The simple questions become difficult and anxiety-provoking. What do I say? Who do I tell? What should I do? How can I help? When something unthinkable happens in our own lives, we have the support of loved ones, community, and cultural traditions to draw on, and it’s still very hard to know the “right” answer. But when something unthinkable happens in the workplace, and it’s our employees and organization we have to take care of, the questions get even more complicated. How do I talk to a grieving employee? What should I say to their team? What roles do managers and leadership play in helping that employee? When a staff member is seriously ill or dies, should I reach out to my employee’s loved ones, especially in cultures with different grieving practices from my own? When an employee becomes sick or dies from a risk we all share, what should I say or do to help our people and our organization heal? Where can I turn for support for myself? You’ll learn from our presenters about their experiences helping employees and their organizations through loss.


  • Mardecia Bell

    Chief Information Security Officer, North Carolina State University
  • Debbie Carraway

    Director of IT, College of Sciences, North Carolina State University
  • Donna Petherbridge

    Vice Provost, DELTA, North Carolina State University