Most people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, such as returning from a tour of military duty, sudden death of a loved one, a car accident, abuse or neglect, a violent act, or a natural disaster. Many people will not only recover, a large majority recover and decide to create something positive out of tragedy. This phenomenon is known as post traumatic good, and has only recently started to be studied. Below are three well-known examples: Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.). This organization was formed in 1980 after the founder’s 13-year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Instead of letting grief overwhelm her, she decided to channel her pain and anger into a vehicle for change. One of her biggest accomplishments was to raise awareness of drunk driving and also to create a “parent’s handbook” that addresses talking to teenagers about drinking. A more recent example is AMBER Alerts, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Responses, which was named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year old who was abducted and killed in 1996. AMBER Alerts are sent via wireless devices, radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio to announce child abductions. Since December 2015, over 800 children have been rescued due to an AMBER Alert. Finally, the social networking site Meetup, which was founded in New York in 2002, is an example of something good that arose from the ashes Read More

The unthinkable has happened again, another shooting into a crowd. This one took place in the baggage claim area at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport by a man with no clear motive. He killed five and injured eight, then laid spread eagle on the floor and waited for law enforcement to take him into custody. While he knows why he did this, his injured victims and everyone else on the scene does not, and are left with lingering questions and disturbing feelings about the event. It’s not unusual for victims of a crime to feel isolated and disconnected from the people around them. But what many don’t realize is, there are invisible casualties of heinous events: those that were in the area and witnessed some or all of the event, but were not directly impacted by the tragedy. These victims can suffer serious negative reactions that begin immediately, or appear over time. My own experience with such an event, the feelings, emotions and how the tragedy impacted my entire life, is chronicled in the book Invisible Casualties. Look Inside: Read Chapter One for Free A traumatic incident can trigger recent and not so recent memories in which the victim felt scared and/or helpless. How individuals react and process this type of horror greatly depends on past experiences they had involving violence and/or loss. Some will be impacted very little, while others will grieve deeply even though they were not directly impacted (i.e. in the baggage claim area).  For example, while the Read More

In 2011, Japan experienced a level 9 magnitude earthquake off their coast line. At the time, I was working for a corporation headquartered in Japan. After watching what was happening in the aftermath of the earthquake, the group I was working with asked if a collection could be taken for our co-workers in Asia. In addition to monetary contributions, employees also asked if they could donate a portion of their paid time off bank (PTO). While the request to donate PTO time was denied, we were able to raise several hundred dollars for our co-workers. I mention this, because as I watch coverage of the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, it’s clear that thousands of employees have lost almost everything, and will not be able to return to work in the immediate future. While no employer wants to add to their employee’s distress, a decision needs to be made within the organization regarding lost wages. Only an employer knows how much financial support can be given to impacted employees, especially if the organization itself is in financial crisis. However, one area to consider is not only the immediate impact of lost wages, but the lingering effect of lost wages. From personal experience after a traumatic event in the workplace, I went without income for almost five months while my claim was under medical review. I was fortunate enough to have savings that covered my lost income. However, I’m not the norm. In fact, a large portion of employees tend to live Read More

Turn on any media outlet and chances are you will see Hurricane Matthew’s devastation. The emotions elicited from seeing pictures of entire neighborhoods under water range from shock to sadness. There seems to be quite a bit of information on how to assist victims on a personal level by sending donations or how to contact FEMA and file a claim, but I haven’t seen any one discussing ways employers can assist employees who have been impacted by the hurricane. Nor does there seem to be any information on other traumatic events that can impact an organization, such as being witness to a shooting, horrific car accident or domestic violence. The first resource, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), is a fairly common benefit offered by most employers. In general, this benefit is voluntary, offers free and short term counseling, referrals, and follow-up to employees in a number of areas including: counseling, workplace performance, financial referrals, drug or alcohol counseling, and trauma therapy. This is usually one of the first referrals an employer can make when their employee is struggling in the workplace. My recommendation to employers is to ensure the EAP provider has both male and female therapists available for on-sight counseling (if needed) and those identified therapists should be available for follow up visits with impacted employees. As mentioned in the previous post Creating a Pause Button, trauma impacts people differently, and the methods of recovery differ, as well. The timeline for recovery varies. Some employees will be able to Read More

Many years ago I volunteered to help with the St. Bernard Project, an effort which was started to rebuild the St. Bernard Parish (neighborhood) in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. At that time I met a survivor who explained he had chosen to ride out the hurricane at home. As the levees broke and water rose throughout the house he climbed to the roof, but then fell into the flood water. At one point, when he was floundering in the rushing water, a portion of someone’s home slammed into his mouth and knocked out some of his teeth. Eventually he was able to hoist himself onto another roof projecting out of the water and wait for rescuers to arrive. As he clung to the roof and surveyed the flood waters swirling around him he saw it was filled with snakes, debris and what he described as an inch thick coating of chemicals. He also noticed a dog paddling towards him. He risked his own safety to pull the dog onto the roof with him. The man remarked how the dog “helped” by calming him down. However, when the rescuers arrived, they refused to take the dog into the boat. As they pulled away from the roof, the dog jumped into the water and paddled behind them until someone decided they couldn’t just leave the dog behind, and so they pulled him into the boat. As the man relayed his story the terrorized look on his face clearly showed he was Read More

My name is Alicia Cuello and I have spent over 25-years in Human Resources; I live in Denver, Colorado. Last December I found myself on assignment working next door to the San Bernardino Shooters. I returned home in shock and was later diagnosed with trauma/PTSD. Neither the organization or the benefits carriers knew how to handle an emplopyee suffering from PTSD which led a lack of support/understanding resulting in the need to take medical leave. Join me over the next few weeks as I post video blogs in which I share my experience, and give simple tips on how to identify and support an employee in crisis while also protecting the organization before, during and after a crisis. For more information or to receive your FREE Quick Reference Guide, email me at alicia@underlyingcommunications.com. If you enjoyed the post of know someone who would benefit from the information, please share!

Does your torso placement in conversation reveal vulnerability or signal trust and respect? What do you do when you first meet someone and then after you engage? In only 90 seconds, learn what your torso position really conveys – now use it consciously. Taped in Blue Lakes near beautiful Breckenridge.   Block:YesAnimation:NoClass:

Welcome to HR Lifeline 10 Video Series: Clear, consise information in 3-5 minutes from a Body Language Expert with over 20 years of HR experience. Alicia finds that most people don’t understand the HR dept or find it adversarial. I break down a quick reference of how to effectively respond to HR for situations like the Family Medical Leave Act. The purpose of this is to give an empowered voice to both employers and employees. Want to see the rest of the 10 video series? Click here to watch the playlist and subscribe to my YouTube Channel.  

By Alicia Cuello Most people are seeking connection, both personally and professionally.  As a species, not only do we crave connection, we also want to know if we can trust one another.  Unfortunately, most of us are at a loss as to how to accomplish either one.  I have a suggestion: Eye contact Its such a simple gesture, yet its one of the easiest ways to connect while also determining one’s trustworthiness. There’s an old saying, “The eyes are the windows to the soul,”  and I have to agree.  When we look into another person’s eyes we can determine so many things including…. Do we have a connection….and can I trust you? Learning to give eye contact not only creates an atmosphere of connection, it also creates trust.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture that’s not good at giving or receiving eye contact.  And I’d like to help correct that, so here are a few tips on how to give good eye contact: Where to look: Look in the inverted triangle area of the face which is the area that includes the eyes and the tip of the nose.  If you need a visual, envision drawing a straight line from the outer edge of the left eyebrow to the far end of the right eyebrow.  Next, draw two 45% lines from the edges of the straight line to the tip of the nose.  Walla  –  an upside down triangle.   Eye color: After your comfortable looking in the triangle area, work up Read More