Beyond the basics: workplace trauma and the impact of community

Workplace trauma

Workplace trauma can take many shapes and forms -- and employers are best served by being prepared to address any traumatic events that may occur on the job. Photo Credit: IMTMPhoto,

By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, PhD

Many individuals equate workplace trauma with on-the-job physical violence, injury and emotional distress – incidents most likely to occur in high-risk professions including firefighters, law enforcement officers and health professionals. However, as noted in past articles, workplace trauma is not limited to the threat or experience of physical harm. Bullying, harassment, theft and even more subtle or external issues like natural disasters or downsizing can all have a detrimental impact on employee health and well-being. According to a recent report from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AETS), it is important to factor all possible sources of trauma into an effective response protocol. No workplace, no matter how safe, is immune to the threat of potentially traumatic occurrences. Therefore, it is critical that employers have plans in place to prevent and manage workplace trauma.

Defining trauma: an expanded outlook

AETS report author Carol Hoffman notes that there are myriad events that might trigger trauma in any given group of employees, from obvious causes like workplace violence, death or other threatening behavior to occurrences like natural disasters, downsizing or layoffs, and even building or construction. In short, Hoffman states, “incidents that have an impact within a company or organization will affect the employees of that group.” Depending on the nature of a given business – it’s culture, community, norms and traditions, location and size – employers will need to take different types of trauma risk into consideration. Ultimately, however, it is best to be prepared – and to assess these risks with an eye to stress and trauma management in order to preserve the mental and emotional health of employees.

The importance of trauma preparedness

Without a plan of action to manage workplace trauma, employers risk not only employee health, but also the health and success of the company as a whole. Hoffman suggests in her report that, if employees feel “neglected” in the wake of a distressing event, they may eventually come to feel decreased loyalty to their employers – and if such feelings are widespread, morale is likely to suffer as a result. In addition, workers compensation costs to cover PTSD and other mental or emotional disorders will be the company’s responsibility, as will costs for any resultant legal action. Employees who are ill, unstable or out on disability contribute to reduced productivity, and subsequently reduced revenues. In addition, physical health costs beyond those associated with emotional response may well influence absenteeism among employees. The resultant decrease in employee commitment, production and dedication associated with these concerns constitute a strong incentive for employers to plan for workplace trauma. With so much to lose from the dangers of workplace trauma, it behooves all employers to educate themselves about the many simple and affordable provisions against employee stress and anxiety that can help preserve overall well-being and morale.

To learn more about managing workplace trauma, consider discussing your company’s possible risk factors with a Qualified Medical Evaluator. Get details by contacting me via email at, or go online at

Related posts:

  1. Workplace stress management: therapeutic intervention can boost productivity and employee well being
  2. PTSD in first responders: emergency personnel’s repeated exposure to trauma can cause severe emotional stress
  3. New California workers’ compensation law cuts mental health coverage, sparks concern among medical and legal communities
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs to increase military mental health resources
  5. Recent hearing portends impending changes to California workers comp system

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Posted by Social Media Staff on Feb 22, 2013. Filed under Columns, Sponsored Columns, Stephen M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Beyond the basics: workplace trauma and the impact of community”

  1. Emily

    This is extremely true and has annihilated my family. I was a victim of Workplace Bullying, threats and harassment that included personal stalking like invasions and indecency. I ended up with PTSD and the effects have now brought me to a crossroads.

    The Dr. Hired by the company opined that I did not have PTSD to refute my diagnosis. He did so after being told of only a few of the extreme Workplace Bullying Harassment incidents. He attempted to dissuade me by telling me that I was mistaken. It was horrendous.

    I then took an audio recorder with me to the second appt and he was still dismissive and attempted to dissuade me. He stated that he did not want to hear of the acts that were the extremist and asked me “were you involved in a situation where you were about to be killed” He gave a definition of PTSD and spoke over me. Saying that it could only involve a serious threat to safety…. I asked “threat to emotional/mental safety and ability to keep my job without harassment” and he kept repeating “A threat to safety meaning death”

    I then told him that I agreed with my own Dr.’s diagnosis and all of the others that I’d since researched to find that this was happening to people all over the world and that PTSD is very real in such hostage like situations. I told him that I felt hostage and raped as I was forced to enter to try and get my pay for the week under such conditions. I told him that the interpretation I that was only rational was “threat to emotional or physical safety” and thus I agreed with my Dr. if he himself had nothing to offer other than denying my diagnosis as well as the very blatant encounters I’d had with the Bullies. He asked if anyone else had an issue and certainly I had a few stories I’d known and things I’d witnessed to tell him.

    He did not want to hear….it was atrocious and I’d suspected it would be after a brief prior meeting with him. Thus I recorded and have the full conversation. I’d not even known it was picked up as the recorder was in my purse pocket. I was so shocked at his blatant demeanor and the coercion, the recorder was last on my mind.

    I lost my job in a very retaliatory way and was run over. My family is now in dire straights and I am at a cross roads. I am thankful that bona fide Doctors are speaking out. It is common sense. I hope we implements laws finally for Workplace Bullying status blind pervasive harassment. I am unsure what to do with the recording. I have let many people hear it and they cannot believe that he is truly a Psychiatrist but he is.

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