When the world is experiencing dramatic events on an almost monthly basis, we need to process and manage our responses to them. While it is not always relevant to our workplaces, sometimes the events hit too close to what we do and believe in to ignore, or to expect people at work to carry on as if nothing has happened.
So how do you deal with the emotional response to traumas in your workplace?
The linked article (below) by Michelle Kedem has some useful suggestions for how to get discussions started in your organisation, starting with this:
“You don’t have to take sides or have the perfect words. Acknowledging what people are going through and creating safe spaces for conversation goes a long way toward cultivating a workplace culture in which everyone on the team feel invested.”
Over time, I’ve experienced a number of dramatic events while employed at a variety of organisations. Sometimes, when there was no acknowledgement of the event or trauma, the individual conversations turned heated, repetitive, and sadly, sometimes hurtful. After the events of 9/11, there were months of intense internal conversations covering every topic under the sun, and it was exhausting. We have learned now to always acknowledge an event; sometimes it is appropriate to just let people vent a bit, or talk about where they were and what happened to them. Some people like to share and take action, others process on their own, or with non-work friends and family. It is important to always be reinforcing a workplace environment where people are respectful of others with differing feelings and opinions so that when these events arise, awareness of and respect for differences are already part of the culture.
There is no right way to respond to traumatic events, and no one should be required to to share their opinions or feelings at work. Providing official acknowledgement and a place and time to process emotions at work is healthy and useful for many of us. It is also part of allowing staff to be their whole true selves at work, complete with emotional robustness and weaknesses.
Allowing emotional responses to traumatic events is also important for those events that happen internally. When we had a suicide in one small company I worked with, we immediately brought in a professional facilitator, as we realised the leadership was not equipped to deal with the avalanche of feelings that cascaded through the organisation. Bringing in an outside facilitator not only acknowledged the importance of the impact of this event to all of us, but it also allowed the leadership to deal with their own feelings as well, and learn to help others over time. We provided time for people who wanted to attend a group session with the facilitator, as well as time for people who wanted individual session with this facilitator.
Whilst it is not an easy part of managing, spending time with staff processing through emotional events does lead to greater understanding, insights and empathy between individuals throughout your organisation. And hopefully that will make everyone healthier and more satisfied.
Here is the article:
Fun Friday Workplaces