In January an article was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about suicide rates and PTSD in the Minnesota police force. I was glad to see the article posted, because the issue of PTSD and suicide rates for police officers needs all the attention it can get. Considering the high levels of trauma law enforcement officers are exposed to on their shifts, it is unsurprising to anyone who understands how trauma works that PTSD is rampant in this profession. My suspicion is that the rate of PTSD or other trauma-related disorders is much higher than what is reported, and that’s likely due to organizational culture.
What happens when an organization’s culture doesn’t believe/support/address the trauma its employees are exposed to as part of their job requirements? The answer varies depending on the kind of work involved and the frequency and acuity of the trauma to which professionals are exposed. Here are some generalized consequences:
- Lower employee engagement/motivation/productivity
- Decrease in employee mental and physical well-being
- Increased risk for organization liability due to employee mistakes
- High levels of turnover
- Lack of trust in leadership
That is not an exhaustive list, but even one of those outcomes in and of themselves is a problem. How do you know if your workplace culture is effective in supporting employees exposed to trauma? Here are a few questions to consider:
Is it accepted and expected without judgement or excuse that you will be impacted by the work you do?
- Do you and your colleagues support each other when there is a trauma response at work, or do you ignore it or roll your eyes about it?
- Does your supervisor regularly check in with you about the trauma you are exposed to at work and your ability to manage it?
- Are the supports that are available in the event of a work-related trauma response clear to all employees?
Leaders determine the culture of an organization. Period. They determine what is acceptable behavior or performance and what is not. If you serve in a leadership role, what are you doing to set the tone on trauma in your organization?