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How to Respond to Critical Incidents in the Workplace

Stress related symptoms and productivity problems may surface immediately or may not surface for employees for many weeks following a critical incident.

Behaviors that may be present immediately or over time:

  • Vigilance and jumpiness
  • Concentration problems
  • Fatigue
  • Need to re-establish control
  • Irritability: people being short with each other
  • Talking – recounting experiences many times over
  • Phobia for “dreaded areas” (could be parking lot, car, etc.)

Avoiding secondary reactions:

Employees exposed to traumatic events are particularly vulnerable to secondary reactions, which occur when there is a perceived lack of expected support and/or rejection by co-workers, management, friends, family and community agencies.

How to respond:

  • Be tolerant of a wide range of individual responses among employees and each other.  Encourage acceptance and sensitivity among individual members of work groups regarding these different responses
  • Be visible and available to employees
  • Allow for continuing need to talk, share and compare events.  Allow employees to communicate about their feelings and what’s been helpful for them.
  • Tolerate non-harmful shows of emotion: tearfulness, anger, expression of guilt.
  • Create/Support activities that re-establish a sense of control.
    • Allow people to set goals and determine priorities that do not negatively impact operations
    • Let people decide what, if any, physical re-arranging of the environment would help
    • Allow people flexibility to “pace” themselves in returning to work
  • Seek consultation from EAP on worrisome employees, including those who are disruptive.        

 

© 2005 Partners HealthCare System, Inc. All rights reserved.

If you would like to talk to a Partners EAP Consultant for assistance in responding to trauma in the workplace or to discuss employee or workplace concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at
1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.


This content was last modified on: 02/04/2009

Partners EAP serves employees, and their household members, of Partners HealthCare and related entities.
Partners EAP is not a service for the general public.
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