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 productivity; which is normal in this type of situation
- realize that most employees recover from tragic situations quickly, while others may need more time depending on the extent of the devastation
Allowing an employee time to slowly adjust to returning to work assists with balancing their personal and professional life and helps companies retain valuable staff.