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I have a work colleague who I was expecting to be at work today but they haven't shown up.

I know that they are currently going through issues with their Father's health and may have to take some time off to deal with the situation.

We would like to know if we can expect to see them soon and if not that we are hopeful that they are dealing with the loss, but on the other hand we don't know exactly if anything has happened or if he is just not at work today.

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  • What is the motivation - more work-related ("When will you resume work on project XY, where we are approaching the deadline?") or rather personal? Nov 1 '17 at 10:53
  • A little of both. We are friendly at work and talk about what is happening in our personal lives but we also have things that will need his attention in the near future. Nov 1 '17 at 12:59
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This is most certainly a case where easing into it is preferred.

The subject of a loss can be very touchy for some, whether or not it is the reason they were away from work. I can personally testify to this as when dealing with a loss myself, sudden queries from sympathetic friends would sting more often than they would comfort.

If you have a somewhat regular method of contacting them, then reaching out the usual way would help and even then avoid explicitly mentioning the suspected bereavement until you have had some more subtle build up to "test the waters". For example:

We missed you at work today.. [wait for response]

and if they don't mention why they were absent but showed no signs of distress then a further prompt could be okay:

Is everything okay?

However, if you would not normally contact them outside of work then it is probably best to wait until you hear from him. Going out of your way to press this particular topic onto someone stands out and often may only upset them. If your suspicions are correct then you would not want to push the matter with them personally, perhaps asking third parties could provide you with the answer you need and if he is fine then I'm sure he will soon let you all know.

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Keep in mind that it's just one day ! Let's not panic yet. Give it a while.

As you seem more motivated by work issues than personal I'd suggest just asking your manager something simple like "X wasn't in today. Is everything OK with her ?".

Maybe ask "Is X going to be out for long ? I know she has some issue with her Dad, but we've the Y project and I need to know if she might be away for a while."

But don't broadcast it and keep it discrete. She may not want to advertise her personal issues - some people do, some people don't. And your manager may simply not want to discuss this with you or feel he/she can divulge info they can in confidence, so be prepared to accept a "can't tell you anything at the moment" kind of answer.

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