Critical Incident Support: How Best To Support Employees Following an Incident

Employee Support- CiC Employee Assistance Programmes


Trauma can strike organisations in many different ways. From natural disasters, workplace accidents involving fatalities, the death of a member of staff outside of work, to news of a restructuring or redundancy programme. These critical situations can have a devastating impact both on individuals, their teams and their families.

As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your employees, to ensure that they receive the emotional support and understanding required to return to pre-incident levels of psychological functioning. Obtaining professional critical incident support for employees at the right time, can be critical in aiding recovery in traumatic situations.

Here is how best to support your employees in the immediate aftermath of a critical incident:


Everyone deals with trauma differently, and reactions to an incident vary from individual to individual. It is important following a critical incident for you to allow your employees time to process and cope with their experience and feelings. Typical reactions to a critical incident include:

  • Shock and Numbness
  • Loss of Concentration and Memory Disturbance
  • Tearfulness
  • Mood Fluctuations
  • Flashbacks
  • Disrupted Sleep and Appetite
  • Physical Complaints such as headaches or stomach problems

Be aware of how your employees are feeling, be present and listen. This is sometimes the most supportive thing you can do. Provide your employees with necessities such as water, tissues, food, etc.


It is important not to attempt to find solutions for your employees. Well-meaning intentions can be misinterpreted in time of trauma.

Be there for your employees, and take the time to listen.  It is best to avoid statements such as “I know how you feel” or “everything will be okay”.  This can lead people to feel as if they are not being understood. Sympathise with their issues and re-affirm and validate their feelings.

Listening to your employees during a critical incident can help them to feel comforted. Here are some ways you can effectively support this process:

  • Find a private space for you and your employee to talk if they require this
  • Face the employee and maintain eye contact
  • Listen to what the employee has to say
  • Be present
  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not offer solutions
  • Listen rather than asking direct questions
  • An employee may not be ready to share their experience in depth and it is important that this is respected


Critical incidents often lead to the rapid spread of incorrect information and as an employer, you can help to limit this.  Unverified information can cause unnecessary stress and confusion for your employees. Provide information to your employees when this has been verified and agreed with HR.

Do not make assumptions or attempt to explain why the incident occurred. It is more helpful to your employees to have information when this has been confirmed.

If your employees do have any questions, answer them as best you can. It may be a case of relaying to your employee that you are not able to provide answers until all the correct processes and procedures have been followed by the organisation or by external services, such as the police.


CiC offer Critical Incident Management and Support providing a combination of rapid response, an assessment of need, deployment of a clinician(s) experienced in working with trauma, delivery of Psychological First Aid, individual and group counselling on site and follow up interventions and aftercare support of employees.

Using this critical incident support service your organisation can . . .

  • Access appropriately timed interventions for employees, either group or one to one
  • Obtain the right type of support at the right time
  • Help staff and managers understand human reactions to a crisis and learn more about supporting those involved
  • Access onward referrals for individual or group support, including reporting and future monitoring for risk

To find out more about our critical incident support services, get in touch using the form below, or call us on 020 7937 6224.