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Trauma At Work: What HR Must Consider

Trauma in the workplace is usually unforeseen, unexpected and scary as hell for most HR and business leaders.  We live our lives each day expecting that it will go as planned.  Many of us even complain that the predictable routine can be mundane and boring.  For the most part, all will be normal.

Until BOOM, the other side of life and living happens.  Your female colleague who is 45 and the mother of three young boys has died suddenly from a heart attack.  The owner of the company is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Your employees were threatened and held up by gunpoint during a bank robbery.  Your new hire in manufacturing made a fatal workplace mistake costing him his life.  Your top sales executive drove drunk while on the job and died in a car accident.  Your co-worker’s 18 year old son died in a freak accident while playing with friends.  Your employee tried to be a Good Samaritan and rushed to the scene of a car accident outside the workplace only to find the driver decapitated.

Sadly, the darker side of life happens and it doesn’t stay neatly in a bubble outside of the workplace.  All the incidents I listed are real circumstances in which our company clients found themselves dealing with.  Suddenly, their day dramatically shifted and there is an immediate need to act.

But before they could act, tons of questions arose as they waded through the information gathered. Who should contact the employee’s family? Should or can we legally notify the remaining employees? Should OSHA be called? Is this a police incident? Do we stop production? What about our deadlines? Who is going to assume the person’s responsibilities? Is the company in jeopardy? Will we be sued? Are we liable? What happens if media outlets start calling?

There are plenty of business production and business protection questions to keep everyone spinning and busy during the first 24 hours.  HR and leadership must go into overdrive and it is action time.  However, critically important to the assessment and action planning process is taking time to examine the Human Impact of the event. Key issues to be examined are:

  • What is the incident’s mental and behavioral impact on the employee(s) directly involved?
  • What is or will be the mental and behavioral impact on all employees throughout the company?
  • What actions can we take as a company that demonstrate our understanding and support for employees’ experience of the incident?
  • What level of support do our employees need immediately AND ongoing?
  • Who is going to provide the type of support we need?

Negative events happen and as a result, employees and the workplace will be disrupted. Key to a strong recovery of both is HOW the employer responds to the incident. In every crisis there is opportunity to earn employee loyalty by demonstrating empathy, understanding, consideration and support. To ignore the emotional and behavioral impact negative events have on employees is, plainly put, foolish and short sighted. In business strategy terms, it is certain to damage short and long term productivity, employee retention, company culture and morale.

So, what is your Human Impact Plan?  We cannot separate the trials of life from the workplace, therefore it is every HR and employer’s responsibility to consider the “what if’s” and have an action plan and resources in place to support their company and it’s employees through traumatic events.  Know that National EAP will be there for you in your organization’s time of need.

And remember, as a member of National EAP you have access to EAP support 7 days a week 24/hours a day.  Problems don’t discriminate and disrupt our personal lives and business success.   National EAP is structured to provide you with a wide range of supportive tools to help your organization and it’s employees achieve it’s best. When you decide to take action, you’ll have access to professional assessment, supportive counseling, and multiple on-site services.  National EAP is ready to assist you and your organization in a professional and confidential manner.

Call National EAP today at 1-800-624-2593 and start on your journey towards health and healing.