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Posted By Clifton Fuller on 04/17/2020

Crisis in the Workplace

Crisis in the Workplace

When unexpected traumatic events strike our nation, family or workplace, daily routines suddenly seem insignificant in comparison. This can have an extreme impact on a business or the workplace, as well.

Loss of focus will occur
Oftentimes, workers may report a substantial loss of time spent doing their actual jobs as they wait to see what will happen, gather vital information and find solutions to the crisis. If the incident is major, radio and television reports may consume our attention for several days. 

Even after office environments resume 'normal functioning, many find it difficult to concentrate on immediate tasks at hand. Some report that their duties seem insignificant in light of the crisis faced. 

Multiple emotions may be experienced
We may feel enraged, vengeful, want to lash out and strike back. Some workers may be in shock and disbelief. Events of that day and the days following seem surreal. Some express fear of the future in terms of further assaults or crisis. "Am I safe in this building?", "Will this affect my job? Are other bad things going to happen because of this?" Others worry about loved ones and yet feel powerless about their safety and security. Insecurity, distractibility and anger are all felt. 

Seek to re-establish a sense of normalcy at work
Employers and managers would do well to strike a balance in dealing with their fellow employees. It's difficult not to be preoccupied with the events and aftermath of crisis or trauma, but employers should offer assistance and opportunity to process feelings and thoughts of their employees. 

Validation of feelings & ability to express these are a powerful tool in healing. Allow employees to be a part of discussions, while offering reassurance, development and implementation of personal safety plans within the workplace is vital. 

Efforts to promote sense of unity, solidarity, as well as counseling time and resources, facilitate healing. Managers may also want to include family members in discussions and meetings, as the experience will likely impact the entire family. In event of job loss, effective employers assist workers in preparation and options as they search for new employment. Employers need to be aware that male and female employees may address the issues differently. 

Some employees will be tearful, others angry. Some may talk incessantly, while others don't want to talk at all. By allowing and accepting employee's feelings, acknowledging one's own personal feelings and providing support and services, an employer models behavior which can be a powerful source of strength for employees. 

By becoming proactive rather than reaction, an employer creates security. By encouraging employees to redirect their anxiety and anger into productive channels to address the crisis (such as gathering funds to assist survivor's families, volunteering in local crisis centers, serving on boards to address future issues related to the trauma, etc.), a manager acknowledges an understanding of the need to regain some semblance of control and purpose in one's life. 

Employer and employee alike must be alert for signs of stress, anxiety and depression.
Increased use of alcohol, overmedication (by either prescription or over-the-counter drugs) overeating or decreased appetite, isolation, increased difficulty in relationships, missed days at work, physical illness, dissatisfaction or a sense of meaninglessness itself may all be important clues that help is needed. 

Awareness of available resources is crucial.
We may reach out to colleagues for support and encouragement, but also consider other opportunities, including community support groups, clergy and churches. Inquire about availably of E.A.P. services within the company. Counseling is available from public and private institutions. 

The workplace will become stronger and a source of support and healing by helping each other.
By providing support for employees during a time of national or personal crisis, employers reap long term benefits: increased loyalty, employee stability, conscientiousness, unity, decreased employee absenteeism, lowered medical and mental health costs, and a return to an active, industrious workforce. 

Article provided by: Clifton Fuller, LCSW, LPC, LMFT
Clinical Member of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Speaker regarding trauma in the workplace (for businesses, schools, community or churches).

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