In 2021, a seemingly insignificant decision by a team of interviewers made a huge impact on Aongola. This is his #DyingMattersAtWork story.
'Joy, safety and love'
In January 2021, Aongola lost two close family members in quick succession. His aunt, and her mother, who he calls ‘very important and impactful women’, were family matriarchs, and brought ‘joy, safety and love’.
Living in the UK, and experiencing death in the family from afar – his auntie and ‘grandmother’ lived in Zambia – made Aongola’s grief a ‘really difficult and complicated emotion and experience’.
Below: Aongola pictured for #IRemember 2022 by Rankin.
Receiving the news
There is never a ‘good’ time to hear that someone close to you has died. For Aongola, it was as he was on his way to an important job interview that he learned of his family member’s death.
None of us really know how we would react in that situation – amplified, perhaps, by the stress and anxiety of an impending job interview. It would be natural to feel worried that by cancelling it, we might be missing out on what could be a life-changing moment.
According to Aongola, his interviewers at Monzo were ‘very accommodating’ to his situation. Their compassion – to someone who hadn’t even been interviewed yet – had an astounding impact: fully supportive of his situation, they gave him the opportunity to take part in the interview at a later date, when he was ready.
The team at Monzo showed that by the simple act of supporting Aongola in a productive and healthy way, when he needed it most, employers (and those who aren’t quite yet someone’s employer) can play a huge and long lasting role in a someone’s life.
Having allowed him to complete the interview when he was ready, in Aongola, Monzo gained a committed, compassionate employee, who – rather serendipitously – is now their Bereavements Lead.
"My immediate manager was amazing at just listening and understanding that there isn't a prescribed way to grieve."
Why Dying Matters in the workplace
Aongola’s experience at Monzo is a shining example of when things go right. But in others’ experiences, it’s not so positive. Stigma around grieving, and a lack of understanding about what it means to be ill and what happens when you’re dying, mean that too many of us are struggling to cope when faced with life’s inevitable challenges. The workplace is no exception.
57% of employees will have experienced a bereavement in the last five years. Every day, more than 600 people quit their jobs to look after older and disabled relatives.
Surprisingly, fewer than one in five managers feel very confident supporting someone they manage with a bereavement.
Could your workplace benefit?
Could you and your colleagues benefit from dedicated wellbeing support for staff and employers? Then we can help.
Get in touch with our wellbeing support programme to see how your organisation can be well set up to look after employees through grief, illness and caring.
What you can do now
By talking with those around you, you can help your workplace support colleagues who are ill, caring for those around them, or who have lost someone close to them.
Discover how you can have meaningful and compassionate conversations with other people at work, in the community or at home. Our short quiz will show you where you stand on the compassionate superhero scale and offer some tips to improve on each of the six superpower skills.
About Dying Matters Awareness Week
We’ve shared Aongola’s story as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week 2023, which focused on Dying Matters at work.
We spend so much of our lives at work – and we shouldn’t have to hide our experiences of death and dying from our colleagues, our peers, or our bosses.
With your help, we can create open and compassionate society where we are comfortable facing the realities of dying, death and grief.
Thank you to Aongola for sharing his story.
Webinar: How to talk about death at work
On Thursday 11 May, Compassionate Employers hosted a webinar on 'How to talk about death at work' for Dying Matters Awareness Week.
The session featured Simon Blake, CEO Mental Health First Aid England, Aongola Victor Simuyemba, Bereavements Lead at Monzo and Faith Holloway, Compassionate Employers Programme Lead at Hospice UK and provided practical advice, tips and tricks on how to start workplace conversations on this often taboo subject.
Dying Matters at Work stories
Read these powerful and moving stories of people's varying experiences of caring and grief in the workplace.
Rubina’s story: how dying mattered at work for me