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

As I watch the news coverage of several disturbing stories, the OSU Rampage, the return of kidnap victims Sherri Papini and now the Oakland Ghost ship Warehouse fire, not only am I saddened by what I see, certain comments continue to jump out at me.  One OSU witness said he watched the suspect’s car hit three people before running inside for cover; he said his entire body is “still shaking.”  Papini’s husband said it was gut wrenching for him to look at the abuse she had suffered and she jumps when she hears certain sounds and doesn’t want to sleep in the dark.  In Oakland, one area business man came upon two teenage boys who had escaped the fire and were huddled on his business doorstep crying – both clearly in shock.  All three stories spoke to people who were both directly and indirectly impacted by a tragedy.  As an employer, if these were your employees, how can you support them?  Immediately Access your FREE first chapter of Invisible Casualities, Overcoming Adversity After a Tragedy in the Workplace to learn more. (function() { window.mc4wp = window.mc4wp || { listeners: [], forms: { on: function(evt, cb) { window.mc4wp.listeners.push( { event : evt, callback: cb } ); } } } })(); First Name: Email address: Leave this field empty if you’re human: Most people don’t realize that even when you are not directly impacted by an event, there can still be psychological effects; with some people possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress. The Read More

In late November, there was another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. This time it took place on the Ohio State University Campus. For some, the timing of another terrorist attack was a “double whammy” as it took place four days before the anniversary of the San Bernardino Massacre. As the country marked the one-year anniversary of the San Bernardino Shootings, I found it alarming to read and watch multiple stories about some San Bernardino victims who are not only still struggling to recover mentally and physically from this tragic event, but who are also still stuck “in limbo” with medical bills that are not being paid. According to one New York Times article, the county spokesperson acknowledged that treatment approval had been “balky and slow.” Additionally, both sides conceded part of the problem lies with the State Worker’s Compensation Law and guidelines for applying it. These guidelines only address common workplace injures such as slips and falls. They do not cover injuries typically seen in a war zone, such as terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings, 14 people were killed and 22 seriously injured. As of the 1-year anniversary, several injured employees are still coping with recovery and some have not been able to return to work.  As I read the New York Times article a number of feelings were re-stimulated in me which included compassion for the victims, as well as anger about the way the insurance carriers in Colorado responded to Read More

In my last blog I talked about how to address freedom of speech in the workplace when there is an undercurrent of race relations. I also included three video examples of Trump supporters behaving this way. However, to be balanced, I want to continue to talk about the impact of politics in the workplace and use examples of Hillary Clinton supporters behaving badly. I’m sure some of you are wondering: Why blog several weeks after the election? I’m blogging because I believe there will be another round of protests and the same types of situations will occur as we approach Inauguration Day. Over the last few weeks there have been multiple stories about Clinton supporters reacting poorly and violently towards Trump, his election and his supporters. Here are three: In the immediate days following the election the country watched as night after night protesters took to the streets, with some deciding violence through rioting was the answer.* The day after the election, the CEO of Grubhub sent an email to his staff stating anyone who voted for Trump should resign; the announcement quickly went viral. He later said his words had been misconstrued. Closet Trump supporters are now publicly stating they voted for President-elect Trump, which in some cases, has resulted in the disintegration of both personal and professional relationships. And let us not forget about the name calling on both sides. Most recently, a man was attacked and choked on a New York subway for wearing a “Make America Read More

As an employer, when was the last time you trained your management team and/or your front line employees on how to uphold your customer’s freedom of speech, yet not at the expense of your staff? If you haven’t conducted this type of training in awhile, or never, maybe you should. It seems the media is covering incidents on almost a daily basis in which a customer is berating employees or other customers. Additionally, it appears most organizations are slow to react, or they don’t know how to react. In the last two weeks, three such incidents went viral. The first news clip showed a customer yelling “Trump” at a Starbucks Barista because his order was taking too long. As the clip continued, viewers hear a number of angry comments being exchanged between the customer and barista and toward the end of the clip you can hear both discuss how “they should take it outside.” Finally, the customer demands his money back after he yells, “Trump,” “Trash” and “We won” at the barista. To my knowledge, Starbucks did not respond to the incident. Another incident involved Delta Airlines. A customer asked if there were any “Hillary Bitches” on the flight. The difference is, no employee moves to stop him and he was flown to his destination. However, Delta quickly banned the customer for life, refunded ticket costs to all their customers on this flight and stated Delta will never again allow this type of behavior on any of their airplanes. The Read More

Late last year I was working on a short assignment in an office building in California. Little did I know later that day the San Bernardino shootings would occur right next door and, when the shooters escaped the police net to unknown locations, our building would go into lockdown. I was later diagnosed with Acute PTSD. However, it was several month later and with the help of a Trauma Therapist, that I discovered my feelings of terror and helplessness as the shootings were taking place had triggered memories of my childhood abuse which manifested itself as Acute PTSD. But before that got established, I was instructed to fly home the next day to Denver, Colorado and continue working in an organization that did not recognize I was just as traumatized as their employees in the San Bernardino Office. Instead, it was business as usual with the same job performance expectations. Once I returned to the office, I was met with a barrage of deadlines that needed to be met immediately. When I requested a temporary reduction in job responsibilities, it was denied. Instead I was given additional responsibilities with the comment of, “You can handle it,” coming from my Director. When I was unable to meet my job expectations I was subjected to comments such as, “You know you still have to work,” and “When are you going to get out of your fog?” Comments such as these only serve to contribute to feelings of isolation and incompetency for a Read More

Several months after surviving being in the vicinity of the San Bernardino Shootings, I had dinner with a long time friend of mine. She is one of the Vice Presidents of Human Resources for a large medical organization. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years, and even with our history, she was still hesitant to ask me about the shootings. However, I let her know she could ask me whatever she wanted to, and if I didn’t feel comfortable answering the question, I would let her know. I explained to her what happened that day and in the days and months that followed, including that I was working with an employer and insurance carriers who had no idea how to support an employee with PTSD. “You made the comment more than once that they didn’t protect you,” she said. “In your opinion, what could they have done differently?” I responded, “Circle the wagons and give me some space.” Here’s what I mean by that. Give the returning employee some breathing room, i.e. time to decompress and return to life in the corporate world without any un-necessary inquiries and/or deadlines. One suggestion is to have the management team instruct all employees (management and staff) to be respectful of the traumatic situation in these ways: refrain from asking questions about the incident discuss needed deadlines with their reporting manager consider whether it is possible to re-assign some responsibilities, at least temporarily recognize there may be changes in work behavior including Read More

Trauma/PTSD is more common than you think, and it does impact the workplace. This type of trauma occurs when a person either witnesses or experiences a terrifying event. Examples of events that can be triggers for the onset of PTSD: media coverage of the U.S. Presidential Election mud-slinging natural disasters mass shootings bombings domestic violence and/or child abuse horrific car accident returning from active duty watching a death take place Furthermore, the effects of a traumatic event on an individual may not surface immediately; instead it may be weeks, months or years before symptoms occur. With this in mind, the likelihood of you, as an employer, having to work with a past or presently traumatized employee is greatly increased. When I say this, I usually receive some push back from organizations and departments within the organization, like HR, stating they are not obligated to deal with a person’s past traumatic event(s). However, consider this scenario: You have an employee who is a survivor of domestic violence. A co-worker in another department is being stalked by her estranged spouse. This includes unplanned visits to the work site, verbal confrontations and physical aggression in the parking lot. A couple of these exchanges have been witnessed by the first employee. They acted like a trigger, and she began to relive the abusive experiences from her past. She starts to have performance problems in the workplace and then requests a leave of absence. After gathering more information from her, it appears she is eligible Read More

A couple of weekends ago I was in Galveston, Texas which is an island in the Gulf Coast about 60 miles south of Houston. The weather was perfect! This perfection contrasted starkly with what was occurring on the East Coast. People there were bracing for Hurricane Matthew, the Category 4 Hurricane projected to hit them that evening. My sister and I met one of her friends for lunch that day. She commented on how all the hurricane media coverage was triggering her to remember the emotional anxiety she felt as she tried to evacuate Galveston in 2005 in anticipation of Hurricane Rita. Not only were her emotions on high-alert, her body was actually acting as if it was once again in real danger. Then she turned to me and said, “You should blog about this. I don’t think people realize how all this coverage is impacting other people who have lived through hurricanes.” But before I had a chance to write the blog, I happened upon an article that discussed how Employee Assistance Programs were seeing an increase in requests for assistance because of the presidential campaign. A number of callers stated watching and hearing Trump’s campaign had “triggered” memories of past abuse. Memories of a past traumatic event can be triggered by sights, sounds, comments, smells, or even feelings. Moreover, triggers fall into two categories: internal and external. Both elevate levels of stress in the body and produce physical sensations such as sweating, increased heart rate and/or trouble breathing. 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