Have you experienced workplace trauma?
Workplace trauma is any traumatic event that occurs in a work setting. Sometimes, this is an accident within an industrial facility that causes physical injury, the death of a co-worker, or illness. It also includes crimes that take place in a work setting like sexual or physical assault or abuse, as well as racism, ableism, and religious intolerance.
Traumatized workers focus on survival, not work. They desperately search for safety and suffer from avoidance because they’re in desperate need of safety, security, and assurance that the traumatic event won’t repeat itself.
What is trauma, and what causes it?
According to the American Psychological Association, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” An event is more likely to be perceived as traumatic if it is:
Outside of the victimized person’s control
Unpreventable by or in the view of the victimized person
A result of cruelty, intentional or unintentional
As stated above, workplace trauma can occur as a result of a tragedy, like in November 2020, when two hospital workers died from a steam pipe expl
osion at a VA Medical Center in Connecticut. But there are other, more common causes of workplace psychological stress and trauma in the workplace.
Work burnout and overload
Bullying and harassment by co-workers, supervisors, or belligerent customers
What does workplace trauma look like?
Symptoms of workplace trauma are similar to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Often, the two are nearly synonymous. Anxiety, depression, and complex grief are all possible symptoms after a traumatic experience in the workplace. Other symptoms might be:
Changes in sleeping patterns
Decreased sense of security
Isolating or avoidant behaviors
These can also lead to further health risks like heavy drinking or drug use, perfectionism, and overworking, which create a cyclical trauma response.
How has the pandemic affected workplace trauma?
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many into working from home, this transition to remote work didn’t fix workplace trauma. For some employees, it has caused increased isolation and anxiety. Particularly in workplaces where bullying was already an issue, the virtual setting can cause more pronounced ambiguity around what’s appropriate and considerate in the workplace. This can lead to even more toxic work environments.
The safety of someone’s workplace has a significant bearing on their mental health. Toxic work environments are often self-perpetuating systems. Employees may have trouble reporting or feeling heard about issues.
This is especially true in hierarchy-driven workplaces, which are more likely to present other negative factors like ableist or colonialist company policies. Whenever dynamics like race, gender, or disability come into play, things can become even more toxic as they push marginalized voices to the sidelines.
Recovery strategies for traumatized employees
There are a few things you can do to retake control of your mental health. If your employer will work with you through your mental trauma, encourage them to seek out credible sources on how they can help. Some things for them to research would be:
Compassionate leadership instead of ruling with an iron fist
Education on PTSD
Ways they can support their employees through mental health crises
Developing a trauma-informed workspace
Prioritize your health
Your first responsibility is to you. Your mental and physical health are of the utmost importance, so prioritizing them is a must. Make sure you’re eating well, drinking plenty of water, and finding gentle ways to move your body each day. Journal about your daily experiences or simply jot down stray thoughts and emotions. This helps improve self-awareness, another step toward better mental health.
Do some research about workplace bullying
As with many socio-psychological issues, research and information are powerful tools. The more you know about what workplace bullying is, what it looks like, and what measures you can take to protect yourself, the better off your mental health will be. This also sets you up to proceed with the next step of workplace trauma recovery.
Open up with your supervisors and other employees
Workplace trauma is hard enough without being isolated. You deserve relief, and your supervisors should be there to support you. Talk with other employees and see if they have had similar experiences. If you know someone with a similar experience to yours, approach management together. Feeling supported and feeling believed are extremely helpful while processing trauma.
Find emotional support and validation
You are important. That’s the primary focus. Your feelings and your experiences are valid, and finding and having support is a right. Professional trauma therapy, either through your work or from a trusted provider, is one of the best ways to help yourself process your ordeal. Recovery is possible, and you’re worth the effort it takes to get there.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions have regarding Trauma Therapy, please contact us soon.