An American working in Qatar said his manager told him to “get over” the sudden death of his brother.
Sharif Salameh, a marketing manager at IKEA, said he is at risk of being fired after he complained on social media.
The pandemic, among other things, demonstrated the need for improved bereavement leave for employees.
An American living in Qatar fears he’ll lose his job at IKEA after he complained on Reddit that his manager told him to “get over” his brother’s sudden death.
Sharif Salameh, a 35-year-old from Queens, New York, said he had a cliché relationship with his older brother, who was also a best friend.
“No matter how old I got, it was always, ‘This is my little brother. I take care of him,'” Salameh told Insider. “He was definitely one of my best friends, my brother.”
So when his brother suddenly went into cardiac arrest and died at age 40 in May, Salameh said he was devastated.
He took a five-day trip back to the United States from Qatar, where he works as a marketing manager for IKEA, to attend his brother’s funeral. He said he was frustrated to find out that the company’s bereavement leave policy did not apply to siblings.
“They didn’t give me bereavement leave, so I had to take paid vacation days to attend the funeral,” Salameh said. “That was the first thing I had with them, which was not cool.”
About a month after he returned to work in Doha, Salameh said his manager called him into his office.
“He’s like, ‘All right. Look, I’ve given you about a month now, and it’s time to get back to normal. You need to get over it and move on. I’ve seen you moping around the office, and it’s time to snap back into shape,'” Salameh claimed the manager said. “He ended the conversation with, ‘I don’t want to have this discussion with you again.’ So basically threatening me to get it in gear or else.”
Salameh told Insider that he knew his performance hadn’t “been a hundred percent” following his brother’s death, but he was frustrated to hear his manager “threatening my job and giving me an or-else ultimatum” instead of support and resources from the company.
He flagged the conversation to human resources and also described the incident on Reddit.
“Boss said 1 month of grieving is enough. And I need to ‘get over’ the sudden passing of my brother and stop acting depressed at work,” he wrote in a Reddit post, describing the situation as a “nightmare time for my family and I.”
The Reddit post was flagged by a different branch of IKEA, and Salameh said he received a call from a regional HR director, who promised to speak to Salameh’s manager and follow up. Instead, Salameh was notified that he was randomly selected to have his job performance assessed.
“The HR manager here locally called me into his office and said I did very poorly on the assessment,” Salameh said. “He said, ‘We have the right to let you go within three months.’ And I was like, ‘Well, where does that leave me?’ He’s like, ‘We’ll see.'”
With that conversation, Salameh said IKEA had “given the indication” that “they’re looking to let me go.”
“I’ve not done anything to warrant being terminated. I just flagged an issue at work, and suddenly I’m the one who’s under a random peer review,” Salameh told Insider. “So I’m not sure how that’s even justifiable, especially judging my performance maybe a month after a personal tragedy, I think it’s also pretty in poor taste and unfair.”
Lack of bereavement leave in a post-pandemic workplace can show a ‘lack of empathy’
For many, the coronavirus pandemic – which has claimed over 1 million lives in the US and nearly 6.5 million worldwide – demonstrated the need for improved bereavement leave for employees.
The companies that do provide bereavement leave “often fail to provide an adequate amount of time away and lack ongoing support for employees dealing with a grief event,” which “signals a lack of empathy and support from leadership,” said Katie Lynch, who founded a company to help employers support employees experiencing life crises.
“Companies that want to lead with empathy,” Lynch wrote in Forbes, “need to create policies that are more inclusive, ensuring that bereavement leave is not just given for the death of a parent, spouse or child, but any family member to whom the person was close.”
In 2016, IKEA announced that the company would offer 16 weeks of paid parental leave for employees, including hourly workers, The Atlantic reported. And while IKEA US earlier this year touted its paid leave and wellness programs, it did not mention bereavement leave.
Salameh said the bereavement policy at IKEA Qatar – a franchise owned by the conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group – only applies to parents, spouses, and children.
IKEA “wasn’t supportive at all” after Salameh filed the HR complaint about his manager telling him to “get over it and move on” since his brother’s death, he said.
“They were not concerned about the complaint. It was more of covering their tracks,” Salameh said. “Never at any point, was anybody like, ‘Oh, maybe take some time off, work from home or whatever you need. Maybe we can suggest some sort of counseling or therapy.'”
A spokesperson for IKEA said in a statement that while the company “cannot comment on personnel matters of individuals, at IKEA we place great importance on the well-being of our coworkers. We ensure we always follow local laws, rules, and regulations as well as our internal code of conduct.”
Salameh said he’s “exhausted every channel” at IKEA for reporting his boss’ behavior, which is why he turned to Reddit “trying to get some support to make sure I’m not losing my mind here.”
He said he found support on the social media platform and has already started searching for jobs elsewhere in case he really does lose his job.
“I’ve just been trying to work whatever contacts I have here so I can hopefully land on my feet after this,” he said. “I just hope it gets better for the next poor guy who has to deal with a situation like this.”
Read the original article on Insider