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

Let's Get High

by Julie Davis Thursday, December 4, 2014

Smoke a joint … Drink a shot of tequila … Eat a donut … Get angry … Worry … Run on a treadmill … Climb a mountain ... Hunt for a fashion bargain. 

You can get “high” by ingesting a substance, activating a thought, or moving the body in a way that triggers a chemical reaction leading to a feeling of “high.” 

Until you are comfortable NOT being “high” you will search and find how to get “high.” You might stop drinking alcohol but find yourself reaching for more sweets.  When you are unable to exercise you might become agitated, start shopping, drink alcohol, caffeine, or soda.

Do you think you have an addiction/motivation/discipline problem with alcohol, food, anger, worry, spending?  Are you are interested in eliminating unhealthy substances and processes that make you “high?”  Good!  However, until you are willing and able to be “NOT HIGH” you might find yourself seeking other forms of getting “high.”  

This week, I invite you to consider how you might feel “NOT HIGH:”       

Confused? Embarrassed? Out of control? Terrified? Lonely? Edgy? Depressed?  Anxious? Calm? Bored? Unimportant?

These are the experiences that might require understanding and attention before you stop thinking, “Let’s get high!”

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keeppeople stuck (www.juliedavismft.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service (text JULIETUESDAY to 22828). Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California, New York), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.

Tags:

Anger | Animal Instinct | Anxiety | Healing | Intimacy | marriage | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | Pet Therapy | Primitive Mind | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Treatment Modalities | Wisdom

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

Three A's To Thrive

by Gilbert Bliss Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When I talk to clients about their family upbringing, I often get the response, "We had food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes to wear".  There is so much this description leaves out.

Abraham Maslow developed his well known Hierarchy of Needs including food, shelter and safety.  What is left out, is what I call the three A's required to maximize our life experience …

Approval.

As children, we need to know our right to be on this planet and in the lives of those who raise us is never in question.  Parents have what children perceive as ultimate authority over their lives. The parent who abuses that can put the child in a state of mortal fear, creating a foundation for emotional problems.  Children should hear, "We brought you into this world and welcome you as part of our lives", or, for adoptees, "We chose to make you part of our family, no less than any other child we have or may have in the future".  The extraordinary power parents have needs to be put to use for children, not against them.  This does not mean all behavior is acceptable, but that a child's life has inherent validity.

Affirmation.

This may sound like a synonym for approval, but it goes further.  The idea behind affirmation is that a child's character is never in question.  Mistakes in judgment are not "flaws", but are: mistakes, pure and simple.  Affirmed children and, later, adults, are better able to stand on their own making important decisions and not second guessing themselves with regard to their essential integrity.  Affirmation continues beyond age 18.  Children outgrow their need for approval, but the need for affirmation, be it quiet or loud, continues.  Healthy affirmation outlives us and is an important gift to those we love.

Affection.

The importance of physical affection has been scientifically and anecdotally validated.  Babies physically wither if they are not held and stroked.  The effects of withholding of affection have been demonstrated in children raised in institutions that do not offer healing touch.  Touch creates a bridge between what is spoken by voice and meant by intention. Couples are clear that affection is often as important as sex; in a world where they have given each other permission to share what they would not share with anyone else, the daily small demonstrations of intimate attention carry great meaning, affirmation of their mutual attraction to each other.  This carries a powerful message of safety, as well.

Approval, affirmation, and affection must coexist with each other.  There is little chance of success if one is left out, or one emphasized more than the other, unless there is a particular need to do so.  People can withstand incredibly difficult circumstances and thrive with these elements in place.

Gilbert Bliss is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Towson, Maryland.  His experience includes work with individuals, couples, families and children in bereavement.  His web site is www.gblisscounselor.com.

Tags:

Abuse | Child Abuse | Healing | Intimacy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Social Work | Therapy | Trauma

Healing After Sexual Trauma

by Gilbert Bliss Friday, July 4, 2014

I have had the privilege of working with patients who have had sexual trauma early in their lives, either as children or young adults.  As a result of this opportunity, I have come to believe that it can be important for some who have experienced such a terrible experience, either once or over time, to work with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser.  While I do not, in any way, believe that anyone should seek the advice of a therapist with whom they would experience immediate discomfort, I am of the deep conviction that a healing relationship with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser could help to lift the limitations a patient might feel with regard to letting themselves be available for a meaningful relationship with another person.

Such a venture is a very tender process, involving time and an openness of expression that could help a patient be liberated of old fears while becoming wise about how to best take care of themselves in situations that, after working through the trauma, might otherwise make them too anxious to allow involvement.  This is the process of moving from the position of victim to permission to thrive, perhaps on an even higher level than even the patient might have allowed themselves to consider.

As with any patient I see, my approach is collaborative.  If a patient is too uncomfortable with the work we are doing, I change my approach to take their feelings into account.  If the work just feels like it is "too much", we take a break.  No one should feel like a prisoner to the therapeutic endeavor.

I invite people who have had such difficult experiences to consider what, to some of my colleagues, seems a radical approach.  I would hope that the discovery would be that there is nothing to lose but some time.

Gil Bliss is a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) with a private psychotherapy practice in Towson, Maryland.  Gil has worked with a wide variety of patients, including individuals, couples and families, along with grief work with children.  His web site is www.gblisscounselor.com.

Tags:

Abuse | Anxiety | Couples | Healing | Intimacy | marriage | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | relationships, friendships | Sexual | Sexual Trauma | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Treatment Modalities

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