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Queen Elizabeth – A Predictable yet Unanticipated Response

On Thursday 8th of September, we heard the sad news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away peacefully at her home, surrounded by loved ones.

The Queen was 96 and had reigned for 70 years. 70 Years of service to her country and peoples.

But this blog is not about the Queen (as such), it is a reflection on how the country responded and what it teaches us about our preparing for sudden or expected changes in our lives.

A Predictable Planned Response.

On hearing the news, understandably, the world seemed to stop turning for many people. People's attention was focused on the sad news, and the media quickly responded in several ways. This didn't happen by chance – they had prepared for this moment for years.

With the passing of a monarch, there are protocols to abide by and rules to follow. An official mourning period is established, on some stations, comedy shows were cancelled, and presenters wore black or dark suits. This is the tip-of-the-iceberg.

Every detail of the Queen's funeral and period of mourning was planned and the Queen had personal input on the plans.

The official response to her passing had been planned for years and would culminate in the funeral which would undoubtedly be one of the biggest security operations in recent years.

All of this was discussed, planned, documented and rehearsed for many years. But there is one thing that couldn't be fully planned for, or anticipated, and that is the response by the general public.

An Unpredictable Human Response.

The public outpouring of sympathy and emotion must have taken everyone by surprise. The general public turned out in their thousands to pay their respects to the Queen, and the royal family. Often lining the streets for hours and even days to catch a glimpse of the Coffin, the Queen was ceremoniously moved from Balmoral to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle to lay in state.

At times, the queues went on for over 5 miles and was visible from space. People waited for over 14hrs, through the night and in the cold, to walk passed the Queen's coffin, as a sign of respect and thanks for her 70 years of service.

People spoke of how the passing of her Majesty had rekindled memories of a loved one's passing, and the emotion in the country was practically palpable. Even those who did not consider themselves Royalists appreciated the magnitude of the occasion – the end of the longest reigning Monarch, and the passing of the Crown from a Queen to a King.

People are unpredictable

As my good friend and Cyber Trauma Therapy Specialist Catherine Knibbs often says; There is no road map to grief. We will all grieve in our own way, and in our own time.

It doesn't matter if you are a Royalist or not, and the point is that this is a significant moment in history, in people's lives and has affected people in myriad ways.

These people work in our organisations. They serve in the shops and restaurants we visit. They are the teachers and doctors we rely on. They are the people we pass silently in the streets.

As business owners, we may not have a Contingency Plan for when a head of state passes, but we should have enough emotional intelligence to know that it may affect our friends, family, teams, clients, or customers.

During the mourning period, many organisations changed their marketing plans out of respect for the occasion. But I wonder how many spoke to their teams about her passing – about how they were feeling? Did they need any time away? Perhaps even time to visit the Queen as she lay in state?

From what I witnessed, there were only a couple of serious PR disasters related to the Queen's passing – both were highly publicised on social media, and the negative response was highly predictable.

The first was a Fish and Chip shop owner in Scotland who shared her own post on social media, resulting in her having to have a police escort for her safety. Her shop was damaged as it was pelted with stones and eggs by an angry mob.

The second was Centre Parcs who decided to tell their guests that they would be closing their parks for the official day of mourning on 19th September. They informed their guests that they would need to vacate the parks for that day, which caused an uproar. Centre Parcs quickly reversed this decision and informed people that the entertainment facilities would be closed, but people could stay in their cabins.

Both of these responses could have been avoided if they had simply recognised it's not about YOU! We need to look beyond the narrow confines of our own thinking and read the temperature in the room.

Conclusion

Queen Elizabeth II's passing is a sad occasion for many reasons, not least of which is that she was a Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother. Her passing has thrown up a lot of emotions and questions that will need to be worked through over the coming weeks and months, both personally and for the country.

On a micro-level, we need to remember that people will have been affected by her passing. Please don't discount or negate other people's feelings because it hasn't affected you.

Be on the lookout for people who are a little more reserved or absent. Are people more irritable or short-tempered than usual? Are they making errors due to a lack of concentration? Of course, there may be other signs that people are struggling with what is happening around us. You should be alive to this.

Again, I will repeat; This may have affected your staff, your clients and your customers not just because the Queen has passed away, but because of what memories and emotions this stirs.

Finally, what are you doing to prepare for the coming weeks and months? No one is suggesting you need a documented Contingency Plan, but make sure you discuss it at your next Management Team Meeting.


As I often say; Your systems may be 'up', but your people may be 'down'.

Be aware of the issues at hand, we call it 'situational awareness'. And if you find this difficult to do, at the end of the day, just remember to be kind.

If you are struggling to cope with grief,Cruse Bereavement Support is a charity helping those suffering with loss. Its National Bereavement Helpline (0808 808 1677).

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