How To Help A Traumatized Employee

Employees are prone to various forms of trauma in the workplace. Some of these traumas happen by virtue of the work the employee is doing or the role they occupy. Those are a bit difficult to prevent as it is embodied in the core of the job. In other times, these traumas are simply due to preventable causes that were either overlooked by the organization or not regarded in the first place.

If you have witnessed a colleague employee who is going through a stressful moment in the workplace, you can agree to the fact that it is very unpleasant to behold. It is even worse when the traumatized employee is an executive, manager or a key member of a team in charge of a project. Their trauma will indirectly mean that the project will be halted or slowed down drastically.

The negative effects of stresses due to traumatic experiences by employees in the workplace can affect the organization at large because traumatized employees (depending on their number or intensity of the trauma) may not put in enough in terms of performance. Lack of adequate employee performance leads to low growth. In some cases, traumatized employees can even harm themselves or commit suicide.

Considering the many negative effects of trauma on employees in the workplace, it is very important that organizations put in measures to prevent or manage traumas as well as help traumatized employees. Everyone in the organization has a role to play to manage traumatized employees.

Here are some ways individuals and organizations can help traumatized employees:

1.   Solve the “real” problem:

It is very unfortunate for an organization to regard a traumatized employee as ineffective or unproductive when most of what the individual is going through may be as a result of situations and circumstances created by the organization itself.

Aside from direct and coincidental traumas encountered from one’s line of work such as in the case of firefighters, police, military, health workers, drivers and journalist almost every other sources of trauma in the workplace are largely constituted by the organizations these people work in. It is recommended that organizations take constructive steps to deal with poor working conditions that cause accidents and injuries, sexual harassments and all forms of discrimination as well as bad company cultures.

This is the first and most important step an organization must take to address traumatic stress in the workplace or management of employees with traumatic stress. If this step is missed, no amount of counselling or therapy can be enough to stop further traumas from happening. An organization should assess how employees are hired, the roles they give employees, training procedures offered, appraisal procedures, company culture, styles of leadership, organization and management of work and the design of the workplace to ensure that they do their part to reduce stress. Policies on getting help should be declared and enforced.

2.   Reach-out and connect:

A major symptom of traumatic stress in the workplace is withdrawal and isolation. The more withdrawn and isolated a traumatized employee is, the more the significant the trauma becomes.

One of the best ways to avoid isolation and withdrawal is to reach-out and connect with others if you are the traumatized employee. Colleague, employees, and managers who notice signs of traumatic stress among employees could also reach out to these employees in a caring way. Friends and family of the traumatized employee who notice any of the signs of trauma should immediately connect more with the employee. If possible, the traumatised employee should be given opportunities to cultivate new friendships both at work or in their neighborhood.

The more the traumatized employee gets to reachout to, connect, and communicate with people who love and care about them, the faster the individual can recover from the trauma. By constantly connecting in this way, the traumatized employee gets to replace memories of the event that caused the trauma with new refreshing memories that they can fall back on whenever they feel stressed.

3.    Get Proper Exercise and Nutrition:

Usually, one of the last things on the mind of a traumatized employees is to exercise when they are stressed. Most of these people will prefer to be left alone or avoid any form of activity that may involve the use of energy or mind power like a physical exercise. Some even lose their appetite or decide not to eat certain kinds of foods even if they may not have eaten anything all day.

However, engaging in a physical activity like walking, running, lifting weights, or physical sports like racing, soccer, basketball or various forms of athletics are proven to be one of the best remedies for people with traumatic stress. You can change your emotions by simply changing your motion.

By engaging in a physical action like running, which involves almost all parts of your body, you indirectly focus the mind to shift from the trauma itself into completing your goal. Gradually, the thoughts of trauma get replaced by the thoughts of energy and concentration.

What and how you eat plays a major role too. It is recommended that traumatized employees eat small but frequent meals. This puts your blood sugar on an even level to keep you focused and give you high energy, thereby avoiding mood swings, anxieties and irritabilities caused by low blood sugar. Sugar and carbohydrates should be reduced as much as possible. Foods filled with omega-3 must be encouraged. Avoid excessive smoking or drinking. People living or working with traumatized employees should encourage them to take on frequent interesting physical activities and ensure they eat properly.

4.   Proper rest (Sleep):

Lack of adequate sleep is proven to affect our productivity, creativity, problem-solving and ability to focus. It is common for people suffering from trauma to suffer from sleep disturbances. They may have nightmares or trouble falling asleep.  

Traumatized employees who have prolonged lack of sleep should be given some time to unplug and refresh to enable them take enough rest. Traumatized employees must also improve the quality of their sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and ensuring an 8-hour sleep duration each night.

Favorable environment for sleep like less screen light, soothing music, quietness and comfortable beds must be available for traumatised employees to enhance their sleep. By getting enough sleep there will be less stress caused by traumas.

5.   Timely and accessible assistance:

There should be timely and accessible assistance by way of professional counselling and psychotherapy to immediately support traumatized employees.

As a preventive measure, organizations can organize frequent periodic workshops and forums for employees to train, inform and alert them on ways to live a stress-free life in the workplace. This will drastically reduce the potential for future traumatic stress in the workplace.

Managers should be trained on how to notice signs of traumatic stress among employees so they can provide faster support to these employees.

6.   Check bad habits:

Habits such as perfectionism and pessimism can worsen the trauma that an employee may be going through. Managers and colleagues working with traumatized employees should encourage setting of realistic and achievable goals as well as positive thinking in the workplace.

Traumatized employees should be made to understand that certain things such as the behavior of other people are simply out of their control. What they can control in every situation is how they react to things.

Bringing it all together, trauma in the workplace is a manageable condition. However, all stakeholders from business executives, managers, colleagues, and the traumatized employees themselves have a role in creating a safe and effective environment.

Dennis Carradin