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Understanding and Addressing Psychological Trauma in the Workplace

Psychological trauma in the workplace is a pressing issue that affects not only the well-being of employees but also the productivity and success of organizations. Unresolved trauma can lead to disruptive physical and emotional reactions, making employees defensive, stressed, and ultimately less engaged. It is essential for employers and employees to recognize the signs of trauma and take proactive steps to address it.

Today we will explore psychological trauma in the workplace and provide examples of how to identify and address it.

Recognizing the Signs of Psychological Trauma in the Workplace

Psychological trauma can manifest in various ways, and it is important to recognize the signs to provide appropriate support and address the issue effectively. Some common signs of psychological trauma in the workplace include:

  • Increased absenteeism or tardiness

  • Decreased productivity and performance

  • Irritability, mood swings, or emotional outbursts

  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems

  • Avoidance of certain tasks or situations

  • Increased conflict with colleagues or management

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension

Causes of Psychological Trauma in the Workplace

Psychological trauma can result from various work-related factors, including:

  • Bullying or harassment

  • Discrimination or bias

  • Unfair treatment or unequal opportunities

  • Lack of support or resources

  • High-pressure work environment

  • Job insecurity or threat of layoffs

  • Traumatic events such as a workplace shooting or natural disaster

  • Impact of Psychological Trauma on Employees and Organizations

Psychological trauma can have a significant impact on both employees and organizations. Employees may experience physical and emotional distress, leading to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. Organizations may experience decreased morale, increased costs due to absenteeism and turnover, and decreased productivity.

Strategies for Addressing Psychological Trauma in the Workplace

Employers and employees can take proactive steps to address psychological trauma in the workplace. Some strategies include:

  • Creating a supportive work environment

  • Providing mental health resources and support

  • Encouraging open communication and feedback

  • Implementing policies and procedures to address bullying and harassment

  • Providing training on diversity, equity, and inclusion

  • Offering stress management and resilience training

  • Encouraging work-life balance

Examples of Successful Interventions

Several organizations have successfully addressed psychological trauma in the workplace through various interventions. For example:

  • Google implemented a mental health program that included mental health resources, stress management training, and a mental health day for employees. As a result, Google saw a significant decrease in employee burnout and turnover.

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs implemented a trauma-informed care approach that included training for employees on trauma awareness, empathy, and communication. As a result, the VA saw an increase in employee satisfaction and a decrease in patient complaints.

  • The city of San Francisco implemented a trauma-informed approach to address the impact of trauma on city employees. The approach included training for employees and managers on trauma awareness, stress management, and communication. As a result, the city saw a decrease in employee turnover and an increase in employee satisfaction.


Addressing psychological trauma in the workplace is crucial for the well-being of employees and the success of organizations. By recognizing the signs of trauma, providing support and resources, and creating a trauma-informed work environment, employers can help employees heal and thrive. It's important to remember that everyone's experience with trauma is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective. A tailored approach that takes into account the specific needs and experiences of each employee is essential. By taking proactive steps to address psychological trauma, organizations can not only create a healthier work environment but also improve productivity, morale, and overall success. It's time for organizations to prioritize psychological safety and well-being, and to provide the support and resources necessary to help employees overcome the impact of trauma.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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