events are unique in specifics, but often stir up similar reactions among employees.
Employees closest to the “epicenter” often have the most intense reactions,
while those in circles further removed might have less intense reactions, it is
likely the reactions/issues are similar. Being able to anticipate the most
common reactions prepares us to provide employees the right handouts and
teaching points. Experience has taught me three reactions are universal.
§ Guilt is usually connected to thoughts employee(s) have
about what they should/could/would have done differently to alter or prevent
the event. These are usually the result of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” where
the person reinterprets their actions knowing the outcome. This is particularly
true after a suicide or death of a colleague. It is very destructive and
usually inaccurate. A teaching point is to talk about the fact that people are
in pain and “wish” the event had not happened. Understanding there is no
guarantee anything they could have done differently would have altered the
outcome is sometimes helpful.
§ Anger is usually connected to wanting to blame someone or
something for the event. If the anger is at the perpetrator, it is probably
healthy. The leadership or company is often blamed for not preventing the
incident. Anger at God or their spiritual traditions are most common and should
be referred back to their spiritual leadership for answers. It is outside our
role as interventionists to directly address spiritual issues, except to
validate them and state that they are common reactions.
§ Grief after the loss of someone they care about is easy to
understand. Disruptive events can trigger a variety of intangible losses. One most
common is the loss of sense of personal safety. People think this could happen
to me, or my family, or my friends etc. Disruptive events happen because we
have no control over them. This temporary feeling of the loss of our illusions
of control and safety can be profound. The teaching points here are helping
people understand their multiple losses, and that grief is a process they will move
through over the next few days. Providing information on understanding they are
grieving and things they can do to move through the grieving process is often
we are aware of these universal reactions and provide teaching points for them,
we help employees understand their reactions, and tap into their natural
resiliency and move toward recovery.
This is the crux of helping the employees return to work and return to
suggestions do you give to people to help them return to pre-incident
Dennis Potter, LMSW, CAADC, ICCS, FAAETS, serves
as Manager, Consultant Relations and Training for Crisis Care Network. He
is a licensed social worker and certified addiction counselor. Dennis is
recognized as a Fellow, by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.
He was awarded the ICISF Excellence in Training and Educations Award at the
ICISF 2011 World Congress.