As a manager, you cannot prevent staff members from experiencing trauma. Unfortunately, no workplace can consider itself immune to potential traumatic events. However, you can do your best to help them get through it.

Trauma can be a result of a single violent act in the workplace, such as an armed robbery or as a result of the cumulative effect of series of less dramatic stressors of constant change or uncertainty in the workplace.

Each person within your organisation will cope with the traumatic event differently. Both individual and contextual factors influence how a stressor affects a person. The less control a person feels they have over a stressful situation, the more traumatic it will be for them. Typically speaking, most employees will resume their normal work routine within a week. However, there will be people who cannot absorb or process the traumatic event as easily as others. Individual resiliency also mediates the effect of a stressor. People with a good support system manage stressful situations more easily than those who do it alone.

The effect of trauma on a workforce is far more serious than many people realise.

Trauma impacts on workers’:

  • ability to learn and apply themselves
  • creativity
  • interpersonal connections
  • productivity
  • resilience in a changing environment
  • diversity management

By taking these reasons into account, it is pivotal that you know exactly how to be there for them in a professional manner.

How do you identify trauma in your staff members? Here are a few symptoms to look out for:

  • Irritability
  • Unable to focus
  • No longer productive
  • Disorganised
  • Overworking
  • No longer able to cope with stress

Traumatised workers are also more likely to suffer from health problems, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and obviously health problems will impact dramatically on productivity and increase absenteeism.

When a traumatic event occurs in the workplace, there needs to be a response by an employer, and recognition that one of the organisation’s greatest resources is the employee.  Organisations that both prevent and respond to trauma can help cut costs and improve productivity. The most obvious impact on the bottom line would come from increased productivity and decreased health care costs.

Organisations that have contracted an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) will have assistance on hand to assist during/after a crisis. Trauma debriefing would be made available to all employees involved. Trauma debriefing can help employees regain self-efficacy; it also decreases their chances of being overwhelmed by stressors. LifeLine Johannesburg offers professional onsite group trauma debriefing to companies whose employees are affected by traumatic incidence.

But organisations can do a lot more on an internal level. Facilitating clear, open communication, especially during times of crisis or significant change, goes a long way to diminishing stress. The more information workers have about what is going on, the more in control they feel.  Investing in employee personal development programs – which enhance resiliency and self-efficacy – will help minimise the odds that employees feel overwhelmed in times of crisis.

Teaching interpersonal skills is a necessity. Since much of the stress in the workplace is interpersonally generated, helping people improve in this area will reduce a significant source of emotional wear and tear.

Allowing a traumatised employee the chance to witness your timely and sensitive support can reap benefits for them and your company. It may cause them to stay absent from work less, be loyal to you and the business as well as trust you more especially if you have given them your undivided support. It can also help them recover quicker which will lead them to be back to their productive self at a faster pace.

Here are a few ways you can show support to a traumatised employee:

  • Show your support and ask them if they need help or assistance.
  • Try to avoid giving them too many new tasks and more responsibility in the workplace while the trauma is still fresh.
  • Allow them the freedom to take a few days off for rest or to see a doctor or trauma counsellor.
  • If an employee has lost a loved one, express sympathy for them and request if you may convey any messages to the rest of the team about important information, such as, memorial service or funeral dates.
  • Check in with your employee every now and then to discern whether they are coping.
  • Encourage the rest of the team to check in too – it doesn’t have to be formal, A simple text message asking them if they are okay or having a chat over a coffee break is more than enough to let them know that the rest of the team cares about their well-being too.

Trauma impacts every aspect of an employee’s emotional well-being and productivity. By recognising and addressing the many less dramatic stressors, organisations can take action to prevent and treat trauma and build resilience before the effects become catastrophic. By creating a workplace which does not traumatise its workers; employers can reduce the tremendous cost of trauma and also help access more of their employee’s latent creative and productive potential.

If you find yourself struggling or anyone else who is part of your team struggling to show affection to an employee in distress or to communicate effectively, there are many ways you can change this. For starters, enroll the team in a soft skills training course in Effective Listening and Communication Skills. This course will help participating employees learn to communicate openly and unambiguously as well as accept and support the rest of the team members. Contact Lifeline Corporate Training to learn more about this course and for an affordable quote today.

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