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

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