Are you ‘trauma-informed’? We asked BEN PORTER and DIANA CHEPKOSGEI from our psychosocial team to explain why this is an important question for all HR, managers & leaders to consider. Here’s ten things they told us.
1: Trauma is the lasting emotional impact caused by a deeply distressing event or experience. In contrast to everyday adversity, traumatic events frequently involve a grave threat to life, such as physical harm or death, and a sense of helplessness. It could be political or economic instability, emotional abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, an accident, illness, warfare, loss, grief or displacement.
2: It’s probably more common than you think. One global study found that 70% of people go through at least one psychologically traumatic event in their lifetime. It’s possible that a majority of people in your organisation have experienced trauma.
3: It can harm the wellbeing and productivity of even the most resilient employee. Emotional distress, intense worry, substance abuse, exhaustion, low immunity, low self-esteem or social withdrawal. All of these can be common reactions. But of course these don’t necessarily mean a person is experiencing psychological trauma.
4: It can reduce creativity and innovation in an organisation. It can also strain relationships, impede collaboration and reduce commitment to organisational goals. People dealing with trauma might struggle to build trust with others. It can make an organisation more likely to experience absenteeism and staff turnover, leading to higher costs for recruitment and training, and workflow disruption.
5: People who have been through trauma can be great assets in the workplace. They often bring new perspectives and ideas to the table. Trauma can help to give people creativity, purpose and vision. It can motivate them to create solutions to challenges. Not everyone needs to go through trauma to experience growth, but those who do often come out stronger and wiser.
6: The evidence is clear: it pays to be trauma-informed. One study found that mental health interventions in the workplace can give an average return on investment of 5:1. However, many workplaces focus more on ‘getting the job done’ and less on the person and what they’re going through. But the two are connected. When your team thrives, so does your mission.
7: In a trauma-informed workplace people feel more able to discuss things openly and seek support when they need it. Creating this environment depends on having compassionate leaders who provide resources and practical support when employees struggle. The more compassionate the leadership, the more likely people will report cases of, for example, sexual abuse. If trauma is not dealt with at work, it can create an environment where stigma, fear and silence become the norm in times of crisis.
8: Some leaders and managers worry about having to take responsibility for all of their staff’s personal problems. But their role is not to provide counselling. It’s to show empathy and understanding. It’s to champion a compassionate workplace. And it’s to refer team members to relevant resources or professional support.
9: Success depends on the buy-in and active participation of seniors leaders. If your work involves the risk of exposure to traumatic events, materials, or to other people’s trauma, it’s important to create a budget for developing a trauma-informed workplace. This means crafting and implementing a plan and policies.
10: We can help. We provide Trauma Focused Therapy for people who are struggling to heal after a traumatic event. We run training courses on Mental Health & Wellbeing Awareness For Managers. And we can conduct a review of your organisation’s culture to help you create an environment in which your team and mission can thrive.
Want to know more? Explore our services and courses on our interactive web page.