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Dealing With Tragedy In The Workplace

Written by: Dr. Charryse Johnson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, a gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Texas elementary school. No, this isn’t the first or potentially the last tragedy of this kind. The world has endured and witnessed a constant stream of crisis, grief, and loss. A stream that will flow differently through each individual and, in some cases, flow into an ocean of overwhelming. When share video is turned on and the doors of the office open, we must resist the temptation to return to “business as usual.”

Resilience is often defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Recovering quickly is a myth. The human system is neurobiologically wired to remember and protect against future threats. Quick is not the answer. When something traumatic happens and people are going through major life stressors, resources may need to be mobilized to help boost or increase their ability to move forward.


Adults spend a significant proportion of time in the workplace, and hence, this is another call to action for organizations and leaders at every level and every size. One of the essential elements for achieving a healthy workplace is supporting the well-being of workers. Productivity and policies have a purpose, but the highest call will always be to people.


It starts at the top. Leaders and business owners who feel ill-prepared to manage the magnitude and intensity of employees’ emotional responses are more likely to be distant and avoidant. As a result, organizations may overlook silent symptoms of rupture such as absenteeism, anger, decreased productivity, and isolation.


Employers can promote awareness. The workplace can be a key location for activities designed to improve well-being among adults. Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to treatment, and put in place supports to help people reduce and manage stress. This call to action is not designed to shift into an unsolicited exchange of pain. It is an opportunity to improve, implement, or create a corporate culture of health in both theory and practice.


Action steps that show support and concern:

  • Give verbal and non-verbal messages of care and support.

  • Inform employees about the forms of help available.

  • Consider hiring a trained mental health professional to offer in-house/online support.

  • Don’t speak in generalizations or make assumptions about how others feel.

  • Invite individuals to discreetly share any accommodations that would help them manage the aftermath.

  • Refrain from offering unsolicited advice.

  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation or encourage at-home professionals to create a small space of their own.

Public tragedies often fuel the resurgence of private pain. Leaders and organizations must abandon mindsets rooted in the separation between mental health and workplace culture. Behind every sharp suit, great haircut, and wide smile, there are silent battles being fought.


This is no longer business as usual.


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Dr. Charryse Johnson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Charryse Johnson is an author, speaker, and mental health consultant whose work focuses on the intersection of integrative wellness, neuroscience, and mental health. She is the founder of Jade Integrative Counseling and Wellness, an integrative therapy practice where personal values, the search for meaning, and the power of choice are the central focus. Dr.Johnson works with clients and organizations across the nation and has an extensive background and training in education, crisis and trauma, neuroscience, and identity development.

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