Managing Workplace Trauma: Part 2 of 2

The Role of Management and Human Resources          

       The role of management and human resources is vital before, during and after a traumatic event.  Trauma may leave employees shocked, dazed and feeling that their world is spinning out of control.  They need reassurance that someone is in control and that something is being done to right the world.   

Here are some recommendations:

Ø  Develop a clear and functional emergency plan covering various contingencies.  Assign key individuals to specific tasks.

Ø  Train EVERYONE on the plan and on their individual roles and responsibilities.

Ø  Incorporate your employee assistance program into your emergency plan.  Talk with your EAP provider to determine type and level of support available.

Ø  In the event of a critical incident, contact the EAP as soon as possible to arrange CISM services.  Typically, CISM is implemented 24 to 72 hours after an event.  Timing will depend on when the impacted employees can be assembled and when they are not so psychologically distraught that they can participate in discussions.

Ø  Designate a private space onsite where employees will feel safe and comfortable sharing their stories. 

Ø  Encourage, but do not force, employees to participate in a CISM process even if they insist they are doing well.  Symptoms can appear several days, several weeks or even several months following a trauma.   

Ø  Have EAP literature and contact information readily accessible to employees. Keep an eye on those who seem to be struggling.  Encourage them to call the EAP for help – or call with them.

Should Management and Human Resources Participate in the CISM Process?

       Absolutely!  However, they should not participate in or be present in CISD sessions for employees or in individual employee interventions.  The presence of management or human resources personnel may inhibit discussion. Separate CISM interventions are advisable.  Additionally, having their own sessions will give managers and HR personnel the opportunity to express concerns and receive guidance in helping employees having difficulties and in moving everyone forward.  Managers and human resource personnel should also avail themselves of individual counseling as needed.


       The importance of follow-up cannot be overstated.  Supervisors, managers and human resource personnel should check-in with employees to see how they are doing.  Watch for signs of distress or changes in behavior.  It is not uncommon for an individual to initially feel like he/she was not adversely affected by a traumatic event.  Symptoms may emerge well into the future and may not appear to be associated with the event.  Sometimes, a traumatic incident will activate unresolved issues and emotions from a previous event.  For example, a bank employee who is a victim of a bank robbery may experience emotions long buried from a mugging or rape years earlier.  Refer these individuals to the EAP for additional assistance.

 Proven Results

       Studies indicate that traumatized individuals, who participated in one or more small group CISD sessions following an event, fared much better than those who did not.  Participants experienced less depression, were less angry, had fewer stress-related issues, took less sick leave and used less worker’s compensation. 

      An employer’s action in making CISM services available and providing employees with access to an employee assistance program following a critical incident demonstrates to employees that the employer takes the event very seriously and is concerned about the welfare of impacted employees. Failure to provide appropriate crisis intervention services can trigger negative reactions from employees.                                    

Be Proactive

       Your organization may be fortunate enough to not ever need CISM services.  Nevertheless, it would be wise to check with your EAP provider to ensure CISM-trained mental health professionals could quickly be deployed to your site if needed.  A crisis is not the time to find out your EAP does not offer this service or that it may take several days to coordinate.  If you do not have an employee assistance program, this is a good time to consider one – before you really need it.

       For more information on employee assistance programs, go to our blog at  or contact us at 1-800-.731-6501.