Talk It Out

How to respond to traumatic events in the work place

Traumatic events in the work place are becoming more and more common, and every company is susceptible to them. There are many events that can result in trauma for the employees of that place of work. Any traumatic events that occur in the geographic area where a business is situated can affect the people who work for that business. Moreover, traumatic events that affect an organization, will affect the people who work in the business.

When traumatic events occur, business leaders need to act appropriately so that they help their employees effectively deal with the trauma, but also return the business back to normal in the fastest time possible. There are many different types of traumatic events that can occur in the workplace, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Downsizing the company which may be as a result of a merger for example
  • Construction within the work place
  • Natural disasters such as floods or fires
  • Deaths, which include suicide and homicide, which can be at work, work related, accidental, away from work, violent or caused by disease or illness.
  • Incidents caused by human’s including violence, the use of weapons, explosions, fires, threats, rape, stalking, robbery, assault or domestic violence.

It can be difficult for a business to tell if a traumatic event needs to be addressed and how to address it within the workplace. Some of the signs that a situation needs to be addressed as soon as possible include;

  • Increased attrition
  • Irritability, anger or tearfulness
  • An increase in absenteeism
  • A decline in productivity
  • Apparent difficulty for employees to concentrate
  • Hyper vigilance and an increased concern about personal safety
  • A sense that employees are overwhelmed or uncomfortable
  • Complaints by employees about a loss of appetite, headaches, a rapid heart rate or shivering.

The reaction will largely vary depending on the event that has caused the trauma as well as on the individual. If business owners or managers notice any of these signs that the individual or employees are not coping well with the trauma, it is vital that they address the issue in a non-judgemental and non-threating way.

Common mistakes when dealing with traumatic events in the workplace

It is important for business owners to handle traumatic events correctly, not only for the well being of the employees, but also for the well being of their business. In this day and age it takes very little for a business’s reputation to be destroyed via social media.

The first mistake that is often made is to ignore the fact that there is a problem. Most people in managerial positions are not equipped with adequate knowledge to deal with mental health issues. Even if workers seem fine, it is important that they receive help from a specialist in trauma before it is too late. Similarly, delaying a response can be as detrimental as not responding to traumatic events.

Another popular mistake that businesses make is to stifle communication. This means that employees don’t feel comfortable bringing forward information traumatic events that have impacted their lives, which will ultimately affect their productivity and the business. Thus, employees should feel supported and free to communicate within the work place.

The most important thing with regards to traumatic events in the work place is that they are dealt with promptly, and by an individual or group who has an in depth knowledge of trauma and can teach employees effective coping mechanisms.

Contact psychologist and counsellor Louw Alberts for counselling for trauma in the workplace.

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