When your (current or former) boss dies

I received some very unsettling news this morning. My former boss and a man who I greatly respected and considered a mentor died. From what I can gather by talking with a few of my former co-workers, it was unexpected.

I never really thought about how such an event would affect me or my former co-workers. I’m sad to no longer reside within driving distance, so attending the funeral is out of the question. I’ll send a note of condolence to his family, but it still feels like I should do more.

A quick Google search revealed, there’s not much available on this topic (that is serious in nature) and there’s no good protocol to follow. I found this article in The Hill, on what happens to the staff left behind when a member of Congress dies. The main takeaway is, “People would say, ‘Oh I’m sorry your boss died, so where are you going to work next?’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are you doing? You lost your mentor.’ And it’s not that they are not sensitive, it’s just that they don’t know. It’s such a unique situation and most people don’t think of the personal side.”

When you work with someone eight hours a day, 40 hours a week for at least 50 weeks a year, you develop a bond and a relationship. It may be purely professional, but it’s still a relationship that has now ended suddenly. Your grief is appropriate, just handle it appropriately.

When you sit down to write the note of condolence to the family, be sure to include a few anecdotes of what made your boss great. I intend to include in my note that “his demand for perfection also allowed room for me to learn from my own mistakes. His open door policy and sense of humor made working for him, in such a high stakes environment, worthwhile. His passing is a great loss to the news industry and to all those who worked for him, but pales in comparison to the loss I know you feel. Please know you are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Here’s the article from TvSpy about my former News Director, Greg Koelfgen.

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