Handling Disruptive Events in the Workplace

by Dennis Potter Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Disruptive 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.

Three Universal Reactions


§   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 helpful.

When 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 life.

What suggestions do you give to people to help them return to pre-incident functioning?

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.


Tags:

Advise | Healing | Mental Health | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Shame | Social Work | Stress | Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Wisdom

What is a Critical Incident?

by Dennis Potter Sunday, November 1, 2015
I explained to someone the other day the work we do at Crisis Care Network. We respond after Critical Incidents or trauma events to help employees “bounce back”. I was asked what kind of events we handle most frequently. I responded our three most common events are death of an employee, robbery, and staff size readjustments. Again, I was asked, did these deaths happen in the workplace? Are the robberies the type we see on TV and in the movies with guns brandished and shots fired?  No, I said, they are most often natural or accidental deaths outside the workplace, and the robberies rarely involve weapons shown or anyone actually hurt in the robbery. My friend said, these are not really trauma or crisis events, but rather are events that are disruptive in the workplace!

It was then a light bulb went off over my head (if I were a cartoon character). We talk, teach about, and promote Critical Incident Response (CIR) in the Workplace as responding to a trauma event. In fact, CIR are most frequently a highly disruptive event traumatic to the families of the victims, but are far more often disruptive to the normal flow of work in the workplace due to their sudden unexpected nature.

The most common themes employees have after these unexpected events has to do with grief and loss rather than traumatic stress reactions. Employees want to know their reactions are common, but more importantly they want to know what to do about them. They want to know what to say to the families of the deceased, or to their own loved ones after the event.

Maybe we should talk about Critical Incidents as things that are disruptive to the workplace and get away from using terms like crisis or trauma so people understand better the worthwhile work we do for employees to help the workplace recover.

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.


Tags:

Self-Awareness | Sexual Trauma | Social Work | Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma

Aftermath of Suicide: How To Help Survivors

by Dennis Potter Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three Universal Reactions to suicide: Guilt, Anger and Grief

Guilt is usually connected to thoughts survivors have about what they should/could/would have done differently. 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. It helps to discuss that people are in pain and “wish” the suicide had not happened. There is no guarantee that had they done anything differently, it could have altered the outcome.

Anger is usually about wanting to blame someone or something for the suicide. If the anger is at the person who completed suicide, it is probably pretty healthy. Anger at God or spiritual traditions are most commonly referred back to their spiritual leadership for answers. We cannot address spiritual issues, except to validate them and state that they are common reactions. When anger is placed toward the work environment, ex’s, or family members it is generally unhealthy and unhelpful. We can acknowledge the loss of the person, and that we never really know how they might have interpreted accurately or inaccurately what others did or did not do. You might acknowledge it is too bad that the person did not confide more with others to see an alternative to suicide.

Grief after the loss of someone you care about is easy to understand. Suicide can trigger a variety of much more intangible losses. One most common is the loss of sense of personal safety. If this type of event can happen to the deceased, it can happen to me, or my family, or my friends etc. Suicides happen because we have no control over them. This temporary feeling of the loss of our illusions of control and safety can be profound. We can help people understand their multiple losses, and that grief is a process they will move through over the next few days or longer. Providing information on understanding they are grieving and things they can do to move through the grieving process is helpful.

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.

Tags:

Advise | Mental Health | Social Work | Stress | Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Wisdom

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