Managerial responsibilities in relation to trauma
In addition to the guidance to be found under the heading of Someone I know has been traumatised, how can I help?, there are a number of other considerations that apply to managers wishing to support one or more traumatised staff. These include:
• Sickness absence: Some people who have been traumatised may need time off work, while others will prefer to keep things as normal as possible. If someone takes sick leave in such circumstances, the situation will need to be handled sensitively and supportively. If your organisation has a sickness management policy, you would be wise to consult it and see what flexibility it offers.
• Work allocation: There may be a need for some work to be temporarily reallocated or for a block to be placed on new work being allocated. However, this will need to be discussed with the person concerned. They may find it helpful to stay busy and keep on working to the best of their ability. Whether or not they are capable of this will need to be very carefully weighed up.
• Limits of confidentiality: Do other members of the team or staff group know what has befallen their colleague(s)? Would it be helpful for them to know (so that they can be more supportive)? If so, you will need to ask the permission of the individual(s) affected by the trauma in order to respect confidentiality.
• Staff care: One of the fundamental principles of staff care is that employees should feel valued, appreciated and supported. A traumatised individual is likely to be even more in need of this type of positive treatment. What can you do to give a strong positive message of support? Consider this carefully.
If your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or other form of support system, this may be a helpful way forward – provided that the employee concerned is happy for a referral to be made. Referral to your organisation’s occupational health unit (if it has one) may be helpful in some circumstances. Another important point to consider is that dealing with people who have been traumatised can be very demanding and challenging work. You may therefore need to think about what help you might need in dealing with the complex issues that trauma presents. It would be very unwise to adopt a ‘macho’ attitude and see asking for help or support as a sign of weakness or a failing. Knowing when help is needed and having the courage to ask for it should be seen as a sign of strength.
Neil’s website and blog are at www.neilthompson.info