Coping with a workplace trauma

Restoring organizational health through critical incident stress management
By Ingrid Taylor
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/25/2007

An employee’s teenaged son is murdered at a house party. Fifteen bank employees, three of whom are severely injured, are terrorized and held hostage by armed robbers. A long-time employee is downsized and returns to the workplace to exact a violent revenge. A young man commits a gruesome suicide at his industrial workplace, causing tremendous grief for his family and traumatizing those with whom he worked for so many years.

How does a manager even begin to be a strong leader in the face of such a tragedy? What are the right answers to the difficult questions that arise? Even more difficult is knowing how to communicate with staff in the aftermath of a workplace crisis to help heal the emotional wounds and prevent long-term stress effects.

Critical incidents are typically sudden, powerful events outside of the range of ordinary human experiences. Events such as robberies, workplace accidents, lay offs, terminations, employee deaths, disasters and violence or terrorism are critical incidents that can affect employees, both psychologically and physically.