Trauma in the Workplace
Often, when we think of trauma, we associate it with going to war and experiencing assault or abuse. But trauma can occur in many other instances of life—including in the workplace
By Michaela Cardamone, CLAC Summer Intern
Trauma can happen by simply witnessing an event and not necessarily being directly impacted by it. Trauma is an experience that can shape our lives. It shapes the way we live, love, think, and experience the world around us. It is the foundation to the greatest pains in our lives and the wounds in our souls.
7 Examples of Trauma
- Experiencing abuse (physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual)
- Childhood neglect
- Spiritual or religious abuse
- Being in an accident or natural disaster
- Losing a loved one
- Witnessing abuse, death, or an accident
- Experiencing divorce, loss of employment, or discrimination
Almost everyone will experience trauma sometime during their lifetime—no matter their background. We all cope, navigate, and share our traumas differently and individually.
In the workplace, trauma can impact our coworkers and those who we serve. Because of this, it is important to establish a work environment that is compassionate and trauma-informed to serve ourselves, coworkers, clients, and the community better.
The conversation of trauma in the workplace is even more prevalent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year and a half has been traumatic for everyone in various ways. We show up to our jobs with lots on our minds, and for some, what's on their mind can manifest into a toxic overload of stress that can be outwardly displayed in their work performance.
When an individual is coping with trauma, it can be difficult for them to engage in their work. They may appear very tired. They may require more time to complete tasks, have difficulty concentrating and remembering things, and experience periodic outbursts.
Ultimately, dealing with trauma can cause more stress in an individual’s life, leading to a vicious cycle of stress, anxiety, and trauma. Whether the employee is already dealing with external stress from their trauma, their workplace is the source of their trauma, or the workplace is their trigger, it is important to recognize that trauma seeping into the workplace is inevitable.
Talking about trauma shouldn’t be avoided. Let's put it on the table now. Let's be proactive trauma-allies in the workplace now rather than later.
A trauma-informed workplace is built on the principles of safety, trustworthiness, support, inclusions, and empowerment. It is a workplace that puts staff wellness as the top priority. By doing so, a workplace can address the impacts that trauma has and the healing journey.
To create a trauma-informed workplace, follow the Missouri Model of Trauma-Informed care. This model is made up of four phases: awareness, sensitivity, response, and being informed.
The biggest barriers to coping with trauma are not having access to resources, not having proper supports, and lack of education. For members covered by a CLAC benefits plan, LifeWorks (CLAC’s employee family assistance program) is available to help you. Save-On-Foods members can easily access Homewood Health, which has a page on PTSD in the Workplace: Solution and Support. This is a great resource that highlights symptoms, signs, effects, supports, and solutions for trauma.
Pain and trauma are an inevitable part of life. But suffering is an option. Let’s not waste energy vilifying trauma but focus instead on how we can alleviate the pain and suffering that comes from trauma.