To say that the world has changed since 2020 would be an understatement. Almost every aspect of our lives and how we live has been affected. It would take a lifetime to discuss those changes in detail, so we won’t even try. Instead, let’s talk about the workplace.
While most of the world was instructed to stay inside during the pandemic, essential workers were still clocking in to work and performing their jobs under some of the most stressful circumstances. Grocery store employees, nurses, food delivery drivers, mental health providers, and many other job titles in between took on longer hours and lower resources with no change in wages. In many cases, these circumstances produced something called workplace trauma. Yes, workplace trauma is a real thing. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”. Trauma can be expressed both physically and mentally. Trauma within the workplace can usually be traced back to two types of stress: stressful events and/or organizational stress.
Types of Stress in the Workplace
Although there are many types of stress, we’re going to focus on two. Let’s start with stressful events. Stressful events can be several things including injury on the job, a coworker passing away, a round of layoffs, or a global pandemic. These are abnormal, undesired events that can shake both employee and employer to the core. These events can cultivate feelings of shock, fear, and insecurity. They can leave a sense of loss or social impairment.
Unlike stressful events, organizational stress is an ongoing flow of events and/or a combination of activities that create a stressful environment. Authors Ng Chia Seng and Dr. Rashad Yazdanifard define organizational stress as “an emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physiological response to the aggressive and harmful aspects of work, work environment, and organizational climate”. Examples of organizational stress are poor management practices, lack of support/resources, unfair practices that reflect racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc., or just a poor physical working environment. These are only a few examples.
Stressful events and/or organizational stress create workplace trauma.
The Effects of Workplace Trauma
Unaddressed workplace trauma not only affects the employee in their current role, but can affect their future employment, relationships in the workplace, and relationships outside of the workplace. If a worker downplays the current racial climate in their environment, their silence may fester into anger. While they may change their environment, they may carry their feelings of being dismissed and unheard with them. The nurse practitioner who has been mistreated and felt unprotected by the extremely low resources and lack of support may walk away from a lifetime calling and never return. Workplace trauma can also manifest into depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
3 Ways to Overcome Workplace Trauma
Now that you can identify workplace trauma, let’s talk about 3 ways to overcome trauma caused by stressful work environments:
- Talk to a therapist. Find a qualified professional to speak to. Some employers offer short-term, $0 cost therapy through EAP (employee assistance program). Or schedule an appointment with Complete Adult & Family Care.
- Join a support group online or in-person. Sometimes just talking & hearing from others in your community is enough to help you overcome. Find a support group within your place of employment or online.
- Contact your employers HR/EEO and make a complaint. Do not let stress keep you quiet. If your work environment is not safe, report your concerns. If your concerns are not addressed, reflect and make the best decision for you.
Try one or all of the above. Let me know what you think.