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One of your employees is involved in a fatal traffic accident while on duty. A hurricane or tornado blows through your area, damaging the post office and destroying the houses and cars of some of your employees as it passes.
An irate customer can be heard loudly threatening your window clerk. A long-term, well-liked employee unexpectedly dies at home during a heat wave. Your workplace is disrupted through an organizational change.
You know there are policies and procedures in place for protecting the mail and securing postal property during a crisis. But how do you manage the reactions of your employees during difficult events?Moreover, how does the work environment get back to normal after a situation that is anything but normal?
Events like those just described are traumatic for some, but may not be traumatic for all. Trauma is defined as a specific event that triggers intense emotions of helplessness, horror or terror. You may supervise a small office where everyone feels as if colleagues are a second family and everyone is affected by a co-worker’s difficulties.
You may supervise a large-city office with a diverse group of workers who don’t know much about each other’s lives and have their support systems in place outside of work. But there still may be a natural disaster or other event that affects everyone in the station. At some point, you might be faced with getting your workplace back to normal after an event that leaves everyone shaken. Following are some preliminary steps you can take immediately:
Research done by the military shows that a minority of soldiers have long-lasting, post-trauma stress symptoms, even when exposed to the stressful events of war. Similarly, the majority of people will rebound from a crisis and want to return to normal routines once they have been reassured the crisis is over.
Once you have your station up and running normally again after a crisis, you can conduct an informal risk assessment for your staff. While most employees will want to have the routine restored, you can identify those who are not fully recovered or are vulnerable to long-lasting effects.
Common responses immediately following a traumatic event may include:
Common longer-term reactions may include:
Common triggers of stress-related symptoms may include:
Remember, these responses are considered normal; symptoms may last for days or weeks. People typically find that many of their immediate stress reactions decline or disappear after a brief time. However, some may continue to experience stress-related reactions for a more extended period after the traumatic event. These troubling reactions can be triggered by places, people or objects that remind a person of the traumatic event.
If you identify employees who seem to be having difficulty returning to normal, talk with them individually, letting them know it is not uncommon to have trouble returning to normal after a crisis. Offer extra assistance via the EAP or other resources. Not everyone will need extra support or accept it when offered, but knowing it is available when needed can be reassuring.
Above all, take care of yourself after you have managed a crisis at work. It is stressful and tiring to manage a difficult situation. You may need some time away, extra care from loved ones, extra sleep or time for a hobby.
If you feel you are having trouble handling the stress of a traumatic event, your EAP is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us today: 800-EAP-4YOU; TTY: 877-492-7341. You also can visit our website at EAP4YOU.com for additional resources and information.