Trauma Informed Care to Sustain Workforce and Build a Collaborative Culture

What is "Trauma Informed Care?" It has become a buzz word in community behavioral health and primary care, schools, and even some hospital systems. Trauma-informed companies and organizations adopt core principles--like staff education, staff and client wellbeing, safe physical spaces, commitment to racial equity, and client involvement--that recognize the widespread impact of trauma on our communities and systems and commit to policies that reduce the likelihood of re-traumatization. Trauma-informed organizations promote safety, empower staff and clients and build a culture of collaboration. If you are already bought in, learn more about my approach to building a trauma-informed organization in the article here.

Becoming trauma-informed can increase staff moral and lead to a more collaborative and creative workforce. All organizations employ individuals who have experienced trauma or who are managing the negative impact of vicarious trauma or toxic stress. Symptoms of these individuals in the workplace could include:

  • Unexplained absences
  • Anger and irritability with colleagues
  • Hypersensitivity to constructive criticism and changes or a lack of emotional sensitivity and inability to empathize with colleagues;
  •  Avoidance of work responsibilities or over-commitment and micromanagement,

When unaddressed, the symptoms can lead to a workplace culture of a:

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  • Revolving Door/High staff turnover

  • Lack of Communication and lack of collaboration 

  • Low moral and resistance to change

  • Inability to innovate, grow, create.

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back when things don't go as planned, and this is the single most important quality for successful organizations today. Trauma informed organizations commit to training, restructuring, and promoting practices that limit re-traumatization and build resilience. The road to becoming trauma-informed requires leadership buy-in as well as entry-level staff collaboration. The process builds collaborative, transparent structures, empowers and compensates innovation and creativity, and introduces wellness practices that sustain the workforce and inspire excellence.

Engaging in a process to become trauma-informed is low cost, leverages the creativity and passion of mid-level managers and emerging leaders, and can help an organization or company thrive. 

Where to start? Read more about principles of becoming trauma-informed, and assess your organizations' strengths and areas for improvement. Once you feel committed to building a trauma-informed organization, consider the low hanging fruit:  

  • Is there a company-wide initiative that a trauma-informed campaign could fit into? Maybe it's a wellness initiative, an emerging leaders program? Maybe it's a response to an organizational change, such as a leadership transition or a shift in strategic direction? Find alignment with a strategic initiative and let the TIC principles provide scaffolding to pace your unique journey.

  • Do you have a group of mid-level leaders who could spearhead this change? How can you leverage this energy with support from leaders at the top?

  • Are you working on behavioral health integration? TIC naturally falls into this effort to integrate wellness initiatives into direct services of health care and education.

  • Are you seeking client feedback or developing a client-led program? Make sure you have a trauma-informed lens and use this opportunity to generate greater buy in for a broader campaign of collaboration with clients and community partners.

Once you have gotten commitment and aligned it with your organization's unique goals and assets, build a roadmap that clarifies specific, measurable (SMART) goals. Reach out if you think I can be a supportive trainer, consultant and coach on your organization's journey.

Ali Jost