Rest in peace, dear colleague.

InMemoriamI am posting this on the day that the Netherlands have a Day of National Mourning for the victims of the horrible MH17 airplane tragedy.

I have a reason to do that.
Many passengers were not only a partner, a family member or a friend, but also a colleague.

Recently I visited an intranet team who showed me how they use their internal social network to announce the passing away of a colleague, and to give everyone in the organization the opportunity to share their memories about that person.

Of course the immediate colleagues would be informed by their manager. Other employees had to rely on the printed newsletter, so they often learned quite late about the death of their colleague. In many cases, the funeral service had already taken place.

Since then, they have chosen to post the sad news on the social network, in a special “Obituaries’ group. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.

  • All employees are informed timely, and can attend the funeral service if they want to.
  • Many people value the opportunity to share their personal memories and stories about their colleague; the responses are many and long.
  • All reactions are collected and sent to the family, which is highly appreciated.
  • It draws people to the social network that normally do not go there.

Technology-wise it is quite straightforward: the main message is a copy of the printed card, with a picture of the colleague, a short message from management, and the reactions underneath. You can imagine it. It does not feel good to recreate screenshots.

I was very touched to see the internal social network being used for this purpose, it was new to me, and I wanted to share it. Perhaps you may need to deal with this one day. Perhaps even now…

My sincere condoleances to everyone who has lost a loved or liked one in this terrible event. My thoughts are with you.

Image courtesy of dan /



3 thoughts on “Rest in peace, dear colleague.

  1. Dan Leonard July 23, 2014 / 11:42 pm

    Ellen, A timely and well worded piece. I have been touched and impressed with how social tools can provide support to colleagues at times like this. For the business there is also a benefit, besides the obvious human element. Following the air disaster last week I have seen colleagues from across the world offer support and condolences to Dutch colleagues, showing how we are all connected. I find that it’s often tragic news stories that bring out the best in people. I also really like the example of sharing the messages with the families and will be exploring if we can do this in the coming days.

  2. Ellen van Aken July 24, 2014 / 8:03 am

    Thank you, Dan. That is an interesting additional benefit indeed. The organization of my example is 100% Dutch, so “international bonding” is not relevant for them. I am glad you brought it up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s