Posted by: healingtheworkplace | March 1, 2009

Responding to Workplace Trauma

It is unthinkable that someone could be shot or stabbed to death in the place that you work but it can happen without warning.

I’m talking about workplace trauma the kind that results when something violent happens in the workplace.

Experts say that this kind of violence is rare but when it happens it is “splashed” all over the nightly news and we are left thinking that this is a common occurence.

On December 13th Benjamin David Banky, CEO and co-founder of a business in Vancouver, was gunned down at his office Christmas party. The killer was an angry employee whose employement had been terminated a few days before.

In 2008 a mental health social worker, was stabbed to death by a client, as he was leaving work. 

Of course there are other forms of workplace trauma. 

When something like this happens the important questions are:

“What happens next?”

“What can we do to start the healing process?”

I found the following helpful information on the www. It is from a Federal Gov’t Handbook entitled:

The Workplace: A Comforting and Healing Cocoon.

The handbook states that, “If the workplace is safe and operational, it may be the best place for employees to return to following a traumatic event. Workplaces provide co-workers with an opportunity to:

  • meet in a familiar place, surrounded by familiar colleagues
  • initiate the grieving process
  • console, comfort and reassure one another
  • plan a workplace memorial ceremony for those killed
  • arrange to visit injured co-workers and meet with their families
  • arrange to attend colleagues’ funerals
  • set up a relief fund for the families of those killed or injured

In addition to the above the handbook provides the following key emotional support guidelines to assist employees following the event:

  • different reactions are natural in situations of stress
  • people are resilient and strong
  • people need to have time to connect with co-workers
  • people need to be reassured that the workplace is safe
  • work has a healing value
  • recognizing that people will be less productive following a traumatic event
  • provide extra help or delay deadlines to take the pressure off

Having a routine provides people with a sense of control.

There are many other resources available to assist workers dealing with trauma in the workplace:

  • Employee Assistance Programs or Employee and Family Assistance Programs.
  • Chaplains or Pastoral Care Workers (if your organization doesn’t have one on staff contact a local church, mosque or synagogue).
  • Critical Incident Stress counsellors (available in many communities–contact your local police department).
  • Support from Mental Health Associations (most communities have a mental health association or a chapter of a national association).
  • Mental health workers (social workers and psychologists) are often on staff in hospitals or in community mental health centres.

Don’t forget…rituals are important too!

Stay safe, Lesley



  1. As an Employee Assistance Program, we deal with incidents of workplace trauma all of the time. It is important to point out however, that the incidents you mention are the ones we read about but every day less obvious incidents occur. People who subtly abuse or malign other employees, co-workers or subordinates leave tremendous scars. They also create an environment of discontent lacking in morale. In these economic times, this is an even greater danger that all managers need to be aware of.

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