In this section
Guide to Helping Employees Immediately after a Critical Incident
What to do First
- Relocate all employees from the trauma scene to a safe area as soon as feasible.
- Provide employees with necessities such as water, tissues, food, etc.
Behaviors You May Observe
Employess may be:
- in a state of shock
- Crying and perhaps unable to stop
- Angery and frustrated
- Withdrawn and isolated
How to Support Employees
- Be willing to say nothing. Just being there is often the most supportive thing you can do to help.
- Be aware that employees will have mixed emotions. These are normal reactions to the critical incident.
- Allow all employees to express any reactions to the critical incident.
- Answer any questions employees may have.
- Provide these suggestions: avoid alcohol and caffeine; rest; relax with breathing exercises; increase support from family and loved ones; drink plenty of water.
- Call the Faculty, Staff and Student Assistance Programs (443-997-7000) to request crisis response services.
- Give FASAP’s phone number (443-997-7000) to those employees who feel they need additional support.
Suggestions for What to Avoid
- Avoid statements like, “I know how you feel” or “Everything will be all right.” These statements make some people think their feelings are not understood.
- Do not attempt to explain why the incident happened. Your explanation may not be believed and may negatively impact your relationship with the employee.
Suggested Management Responses after the Critical Incident
- A supervisor should be well aware and understanding of the normal reactions to trauma and stress.
- The supervisor should be alert to behavioral changes, and consider consulting FASAP about next steps.
- The supervisor may choose to be temporarily tolerant of reduced performance or increased time-off, but he or she must use such tolerance carefully and not create resentment in other employees.
- Although some employees may need time off to work through their problems, productive work is historically a "healer" of emotional damage.
- The supervisor can reduce the effect troubled employees have on others by structuring some time for "talking it out" via a defusing or debriefing from FASAP, eliminating the need some have to "dump" their troubles on other employees.
- Productivity is still the supervisor's key responsibility. Employees need to know the organization expects the employee to continue to function, and to regain acceptable performance levels.
- The supervisor should respectfully confront employees with unacceptable work behavior, regardless of the cause.
- The supervisor should report all threats of violence to the Safe at Hopkins. If immediate safety is a concern, contact Security or 911.
- The normal steps of good management govern such confrontations, even if trauma related.
- It may be difficult for managers to determine how long an individual will need to recover from a traumatic event. However, your job is still to manage outcomes and productivity.
If you find yourself struggling with an employee weeks to months after a workplace crisis, please call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program for consultation. FASAP has specially trained clinicians who work with managers and human resources/labor relations professionals on these issues. Services are available, 24 hours, 7 days a week by calling 443-997-7000.