The recent heartbreaking shooting of students at Michigan State University which resulted in three deaths, as well as other incidents like it, brought to light the prevalence of trauma throughout our nation. But even beyond highly publicized mass shooting events, trauma can arise from any number of things, including domestic violence, sexual assault, racism, bias, harassment, economic hardship, and fears about the future.

Trauma can have a devastating effect on employees, leading to absenteeism, poor performance on the job, employee conflicts, and even accidents. It is important for employers to be aware of how trauma can affect an individual's performance at work. Traumatized workers are often compromised in their ability to learn, think, manage change, and relate to others. They may also suffer from mental and physical health problems which can further impact their ability to do their job effectively.

It is important for employers to recognize these issues and take steps to create a safe environment for their employees experiencing the effects of trauma. This could include referring employees to an employee assistance program or creating policies that protect against discrimination or harassment.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is a fact of life that most people experience at one point or another. In fact, 61% of men and 51% of women report at least one traumatic event in their life. Given the prevalence of trauma, employers find themselves challenged to provide appropriate support for their employees. 

"In general, trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing."- Center for the Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Trauma can have an effect on employees in the workplace in numerous ways. Employees who have experienced trauma may have difficulties with concentration, memory, or decision-making, leading to a decrease in productivity and efficiency. Additionally, employees may feel emotionally overwhelmed or disconnected from their work, or they may experience anxiety or fear which can lead to increased stress levels and difficulty performing tasks.

Regardless of whether the trauma events happen in the workplace or elsewhere, it is essential for organizations to be sensitive to the emotional, physical, and psychological needs of their employees and to provide the support that is appropriate for the situation.

Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused not only by one-time events such as accidents or a violent attack, but also by ongoing stress from domestic violence, serious illness, childhood neglect, or workplace issues. It can also be caused by larger issues like climate change, political or economic instability, or mass shootings where the individual may not have direct personal involvement.

trauma is usually characterized as one of these 5 following types:

  1. acute trauma- typically Stems from a single, isolated event, such as a natural disaster or accident. examples of acute trauma include vehicle accidents, natural disasters and witnessing physical violence.

  2. chronic trauma- Characterized by repeated exposure to traumatic events. Ongoing domestic/sexual/emotional abuse, poverty and homelessness or warzone exposure call all lead to chronic trauma.

  3. complex trauma- occurs when an individual experiences multiple and prolonged sources of trauma over time. examples involve repeated and prolonged exposure to traumatic events such as growing up in an abusive household, living in a neglectful environment, or being a refugee of war.

  4. secondary trauma-or vicarious trauma involves the emotional  and physiological effects that arise when witnessing or hearing someone else's traumatic experience, such as hearing the stories of those affected by violent crime, natural disasters, or other traumatic experiences.

  5. adverse childhood experiences-(aces) are traumatic events experienced in childhood that can have long-term consequences for physical and mental health into adulthood. Examples include child abuse and neglect, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, divorce/separation of parents, substance use in the home, mental illness of a parent/caregiver, criminal behavior in the home, and experiencing racism.

It is important to understand that, regardless of type, the effects of trauma vary from person to person. For some people, trauma events can lead to difficulty in forming healthy relationships or a negative impact on their ability to work. Others may find themselves struggling with flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares. In cases of more severe trauma, mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop.

CTA Trauma in the Workplace

Symptoms of Trauma

The effects of trauma typically occur in four main areas - physical, emotional, behavioral, and thinking. They can include:

  • Shock, denial or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt and shame 
  • Hyperarousal - feeling very anxious, on edge and unable to relax
  • Sleep problems  - difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Easily startled
  • Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Edginess
  • Chronic muscle tension or pain

Dealing With Trauma

Thankfully there are many ways for those who have experienced trauma to heal in the long term. Employee assistance programs can be a good starting point for getting appropriate professional assistance.

It is important for individuals to seek professional help if needed - particularly if the trauma is impacting their everyday work or personal lives. Therapy can be beneficial for recognizing the underlying causes of the trauma and assisting with psychological processing by helping the individual make sense of what happened in order to create closure and healing.

Other positive strategies include self-care techniques such as relaxation methods, exercise programs, and good nutrition practices; engaging in meaningful activities; creating a support system; writing about experiences; and coping with distressing memories through mental imagery techniques.

It is also important for those affected by trauma to get enough sleep each night as well as build restorative rituals into their day. Going for a walk outside, doing yoga, or anything that allows them some peace and reprieve from daily stressors will help them cope better with overwhelming emotions associated with trauma.

Ultimately it is essential that those affected by trauma take back control of their lives and form healthy routines so they can continue living a full life despite their experiences.

What Companies Can Do

Trauma is an unavoidable fact of life. As such, companies cannot completely mitigate trauma in their employees' lives, but rather should focus on efforts to help employees when they experience the adverse effects of trauma and to build a trauma-resilient workforce.

"it's time for organizations to make mental health support a key priority in the workplace, including trauma-informed care and support. Employers can take steps to mitigate the worst impacts and help their employees through a proactive approach aimed at creating a trauma-resilient workplace." - Garen Staglin, Forbes

A trauma-resilient workplace is one where employers understand and acknowledge how traumatic experiences can adversely impact their employees' overall well-being in addition to their performance on the job. This means providing resources, such as mental health support services, to help employees cope with the aftermath of trauma. Training supervisors to recognize signs of distress in their staff is also important.

Here are steps that employers can take to create a trauma-resilient workforce.

  • Understand and Recognize Trauma- Recognize the impact that unresolved or untreated traumatic experiences can have on employees. Trauma may occur at any point in a person's life, so today's symptoms may be the result of long-ago events.
  • Offer Appropriate Support- Offer support services for staff members who have gone through traumatic experiences so they are better equipped to cope with the after-effects. Referrals to an employee assistance program can be an ideal way to aid employees in getting the help they need.
  • Provide Training- Managers should be trained to identify symptoms of trauma in their team members. Additionally, all employees can benefit from training that explains trauma in a non-stigmatizing way that encourages seeking help when it is needed.
  • Reduce Stigma- Employers should strive to create an inclusive environment where employees feel empowered to seek out help without stigma or judgment.

Trauma Events in the Workplace
Trauma is an unavoidable fact of life. As such, companies cannot completely mitigate trauma in their employees' lives, but rather should focus on efforts to help employees when they experience the adverse effects of trauma and to build a trauma-resilient workforce.


When a traumatic event occurs in the workplace, employers should consider these 3 things:

  1. people come first. Employers should make attending to employees' needs the primary priority following a traumatic event.

  2. make choices available. No two employees will experience trauma in the same way, so a variety of support services should be made available. An employee assistance program can help guide employees to the appropriate services.

  3. work as recovery. Depending on the nature of the traumatic event, give employees the choice and the opportunity to return to work as they deem appropriate.

Supporting Employees Dealing With Trauma

Trauma, whether from a one-time event or continuous stress, can be debilitating to the mental health and physical well-being of employees. As mental wellness continues to grow increasingly important in the workplace, employers are well-served to be proactive in addressing trauma issues and implementing systems that anticipate future needs.

When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.

Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you.  Visit or call 866-648-8326.

The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
following issues:

• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Grief
• Interpersonal conflicts

Have some question about our services? Book a quick meeting below!



2021 CHRO Insights Series: Trauma and Mental Health in the Workplace, One Mind at Work and SHRM Foundation,

Emotional And Psychological Trauma: What Is It and How To Heal?, Sunshine Clinic,

Supporting Employees With Psychological Trauma, Patti van Eys, Ph.D., Pathways,

Trauma, Psychology Today,

Trauma at the Workplace, What to Do About It, Forbes,

What Is Trauma?, Center for the Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders,

What Is Trauma, Anyway? Mitchell's Fund,