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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Bentley

Reopening and Pandemic Trauma

A friend of mine is a family and grief counselor and recently shared the following image with me. It's from Jennifer Yager LPC, a trauma counselor. There are some things for all of us to think about regarding our companies, careers, and coworkers as our politicians discuss reopening business.

This is a licensed trauma counselor confirming that what we have been going through with COVID-19 is a big deal. It is TRAUMA. And it's collective trauma as well. First off, let me say that if you're experiencing the above: 1) you're not alone and 2) there is no shame in getting professional help. I am a strong proponent of counseling.

The bullet that really caught me is the next to last one: "In-depth processing of trauma happens years later, when we feel emotionally safe to deal with it." For some people, feeling emotionally safe comes faster than for others. For most of our society, we don't know how to grieve. Some don't live in emotionally safe environments and most certainly don't work in emotionally safe environments.

Many companies have been understanding during this bizarre period in our lives. I feel sad for the employees of companies that are begrudgingly letting them WFH; whose leadership is complaining about "this BS". The top leadership of companies should be leading by example in empathy, sympathy, accommodations, and flexibility. But they also need to understand the fact that, while immediate action and compassion are needed right now, some of their employees aren't going to be emotionally hit by this for up to two years.

I have a genuine fear that the lessons we are learning during this time will be forgotten and C-level managers will revert to the old way of doing this, which would be a huge mistake. So what will we (as leaders and coworkers) do if a year or two from now, we have employees having emotional breakdowns when the stress of work combines with the processing of trauma? Will we exercise compassion and understanding? The support and solidarity we are exercising right now needs to become the way of life inside and outside the office. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we do business and treat our employees. Work still has to get done, business needs to continue, but adjusting the expectations on ourselves and others needs to continue as well.

This is not something that ends just because stay at home orders do.

Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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