December 30, 2004

Urgent Curious George Help! I just got a message that a co-worker's relative died. Said co-worker is usually here by now but isn't today, and could get here at any time. Do I just leave the phone number for him to call? Do I approach him when he comes in and brace him for bad news/tell him outright? I have no clue what to do. Help NOW please!
  • Was it left on the company voicemail? If so, I'd recommend, with a serious look on your face (like you could smile right now anyway), telling him he has a message, and playing it for him. Good luck to you, and curse the bad luck that made you the responsible party for this awful news.
  • Well, you could just say that you got an urgent message to call his/her family, and sound oblivious to have gotten any specific details. It might be more compassionate, too, as the worker could hear it from family and get the right support they need. That's probably what I'd do. But I don't know the specifics of your situation, so who knows. Let us know what happens, 'k?
  • The last time I told someone bad news like this, it was a former boss and he fired me because he said he'd always associate me with the loss of his mother. AGH NO WIN NO WAY OUT.
  • And now that I've given my $.02 as quickly as humanly possible, I'll take the time to say I feel for you & the position you've suddenly been thrust into. I hope everything goes well. This kind of thing always makes me think about the fact that something could happen to any one of the people I love, and that I'd better make sure all is well with all of them. Guess that means calling my sister, sigh.
  • I'm thinking what rolypolyman is saying. Give him the number, say it's very urgent, and then, as compassionately as possible (I'm not meaning to make light of it, but...), run like hell. You don't need to be there once he's got the message to call.
  • Is it possible the coworker has already heard the bad news, and that's why they're not at work yet? I'd definitely go with the "you have an important message from your family" tack, as mentioned by roly.
  • rolypolyman is right, but please tell the person to make the call in private
  • Was it something totally unexpected? There's so many different levels of shock and grief -- a 90 year old, sick grandparent is a totally different beast than a twenty-year-old in a bus accident. I think that honesty demands telling the person there's been a loss, and who it was, offering condolences, then giving them the number to call back. Otherwise, if they later find out that you knew specifics and kept mum, it could get weird.
  • Ok, he came in and I took the "important message." He's now on the phone. As his office is 20 feet from my desk, avoidance isn't exactly an option. And it sounded like it was someone young.
  • At least I know this one can't fire me. The other thing is, I can't be sure it was a death. It was just...ok, the call goes like this. "Newsroom, can I help you?" "Uh, is [coworker] there?" "No, not yet, can I take a message?" "Oh. Um, god. God, it''s...well, it's his son's...his stepson's...wife..." (in crying type voice) "Do you just want me to give him a number?" "Yes. Yes, that would probably be best." So on the bright side, maybe it's just a divorce!
  • When we assumonkeyfilter, we make an... In all seriousness, musing, hope all went well/wasn't a death.
  • Well, I think it was a death, he just left in a hurry.
  • it was a former boss and he fired me because he said he'd always associate me with the loss of his mother Wow, that's crap. Hope you've got a better boss now. Sorry that you had to be stuck in such an uncomfortable position.
  • I have the BEST boss in the WORLD now. I mean it. Well, I hope the coworker is okay. Thanks for the help monkeys!
  • it was a former boss and he fired me because he said he'd always associate me with the loss of his mother That sounds like a 'wrongful termination' lawsuit handed to you on a silver platter.
  • Plano, I was 16 at the time, so I wasn't wise in unemployment law. :)