Workplace trauma is a difficult thing to prepare for; by its very nature it is unpredictable and varied. The response by an organisation to workplace trauma is important in order to contain, heal and prevent further traumatisation.
Workplace trauma affects individuals, teams and organisations as a whole. Traumatised staff are compromised in their ability to learn, think, manage change and relate to others – in this way the affected individual goes on impact those around them. With numerous traumatised individuals in relationship with each other, as is the case in a workplace trauma, these knock on effects can overlap and cause widespread confusion and secondary trauma.
Whilst it is impossible for an employer to guarantee that employees will never be exposed to trauma in the workplace, appropriate preparation can help prevent the above debilitating effects. This preparation includes the proper response in the moment and ensuring access to the vital coping strategies and social or professional support needed afterwards.
Training those that are most like to be responsible for responding to a workplace trauma (i.e. managers or human resources personnel) to understand and recognise the stress responses to trauma is profoundly useful. This not only puts them in a more secure position for supporting others but also works to increase their resilience to such events, preventing the possible spread of effect.
Other useful things to remember whilst responding to workplace trauma are:
There are also a number of things to avoid following such incidents, these include:
In conclusion, a good awareness of the range of responses to workplace trauma can provide the best preparation for an organisation. Understanding what can happen and how long it can take will make all the above suggestions easier to carry out quickly and calmly in the event of a traumatic incident.
If you do have any questions about responding to workplace trauma, do contact your Employee Assistance Programme for advice on supporting yourself and others.