Leading Through Trauma: What Managers Need to Know

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No job, regardless of how safe you think it may be, is immune to the potential for trauma. While certain professionals, like first responders, are more exposed to trauma by the nature of their jobs, the reality is traumatic events can happen anywhere and at any time.

“Trauma responses can occur in any situation in which an individual is exposed to a distressing or disturbing event directly as a victim or witness, or indirectly by learning or hearing about the event,” shares Lorene Lacey, Director of Global Crisis Response at Workplace Options. “This includes acts of violence, natural disasters, and workplace accidents resulting in injury or death. The death of a coworker, even when it doesn’t take place at work, can be traumatic for some people.”

According to Lacey, workplace incidents are considered “high risk” when they include any of the following:

  • Death or serious injury of an employee in the workplace
  • Unexpected or rapid onset such as an armed robbery
  • High number of employees affected
  • Lengthy exposure to the traumatic event
  • High degree of threat to life such as an active shooting situation
  • Strong potential for recurrence
  • Widespread media coverage

A 2018 Workplace Options poll found that 62 percent of employees surveyed had been employed by an organization that experienced a traumatic event. However, of those, only 43 percent reported that their employer made counseling or similar support available to help affected employees.”

Individual responses to trauma can vary based on a number of factors. Even when two employees witness the same accident, one may struggle with flashbacks for weeks while the other one appears to be unaffected. Individuals who struggle may find it difficult to return to work or concentrate while at work. This can impede an organization’s ability to move forward and return to normal productivity levels.

Managers are in a precarious situation when a traumatic event happens in the workplace. In addition to personally responding to the trauma, they also play a critical role in leading their team through the crisis. Workplace Options has developed a specialized training for managers to learn specific mental health strategies designed to provide support that is both comforting and practical.

The training educates managers on the common physical reactions to trauma, like nausea and hyperventilation, as well as emotional reactions including anxiety, anger and fear. Managers are also taught to recognize that withdrawal from friends and colleagues, distraction and isolation are common behaviors exhibited in the wake of a traumatic event.

“Our goal is to teach managers what to expect, so rather than being caught off-guard, they will recognize the symptoms of trauma and respond with the strategies they have learned,” shares Lacey. “Those strategies include engaging employees in healthy conversations, linking them to social support and emphasizing the importance of self-care,” adds Lacey.

Managers are also taught to be mindful of their own self-care. This includes taking time to rest, spending time with others, and seeking professional assistance if needed.

For more information about this and other trainings available through Workplace Options’ Global Learning Solutions, click here.

Click here to view a demonstration of the strategies shared in this article.

Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.