Trauma-Informed Leadership: Transforming Workplaces for the Better

Team TICS
April 26, 2024

More generally, the emphasis on mental health in the workplace and society is growing. Never has it been a better time to embrace trauma-informed leadership as this way of leading which acknowledges the extensive impact of trauma on individuals’ lives (Bloom, 2023). The aim is simple…let’s make a concerted effort to create a supporting working world that addresses this. The evidence is far-reaching and demonstrates that leaders who work towards implementation of this style of leadership will positively impact the health and well-being of themselves, their team and those they serve (Garcia et al., 2023; Fernandez et al., 2023; Venet, 2023). Staff who feel happy, healthy, and safe at work perform better, stay in their post longer, and the general environment is one of thriving (Kleine et al., 2019). What isn’t there to like?!

What is needed?
To work meaningfully towards trauma-informed leadership, we must first seek to understand what trauma is and how it can impact the performance and behaviour of our teams (Fink-Samnick, 2022; Greer, 2023). We must then know how to lead with empathy and understanding in a manner that preserves relationships. We must be able to champion a psychologically safe culture that is considerate of the needs of our teams and all individuals within it (Wolotira, 2023).

What trauma-informed leadership is not

* Being a therapist
* Forcing disclosures to work out which employees have experienced trauma and who have not (or as our Director Lisa calls it, "trauma digging"
* Making excuses for poor performance

What trauma-informed leadership is

* A method to improve employee well-being: We can work to prevent difficulties with well-being within our teams by acknowledging the existence of trauma and working preventatively in all we do (Elisseou et al., 2024).
* A tool to increase engagement and productivity: When we seek to understand and support staff, they are more likely to feel valued and they will be more likely to help in the earlier stages if they are experiencing difficulties. This way, we can work with them to reduce triggers and stressors, promoting better concentration and job satisfaction (Perry and Jackson, 2018).
* Reducing turnover and absenteeism: When we feel triggered or threatened, avoidance is one way our brains seek to protect us from harm. We can shut down or go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This can look different in everyone, but what we do find is that when this occurs, the risk of being absent from work is significantly increased, along with the number of employees seeking alternative employment. Working environments that are perceived as supportive and safe reduce these risks.

Trauma-informed leadership builds a multi-layered foundation of trust.

Alongside the benefits, which include cultivating a positive workplace by building trust and acknowledging mental health, trauma-informed leaders have teams with increased resilience, and their teams communicate and collaborate more efficiently (Champine et al., 2022). Businesses and organisations will change, and there will be challenges and opportunities for celebrations as these often unpredictable situations are better navigated well with all involved making better decisions, which gives rise to more sustainable organisational outcomes. Incorporating trauma-informed practices into leadership is beneficial; it's a strategic move towards a more humane and effective workforce that nurtures all concerned, irrespective of their lived or living experiences of trauma. Ultimately championing equity and considering the unique needs of all involved to work towards a collective good.

We've created a Trauma Informed Leadership downloadable guide which you can learn more about here.

If you need any help and support or just a general chat about ‘all things Trauma Informed’, please get in touch with Lyndsay, our Working Together Lead at lyndsay@ticservicesltd.com and our team will support you in your journey.

References

Bloom, S. L. (2023). A biocratic paradigm: Exploring the complexity of trauma-informed leadership
and creating presence. Behavioral sciences, 13(5), 355.

Champine, R.B., Hoffman, E.E., Matlin, S.L. et al. “What Does it Mean to be Trauma-Informed?”: A Mixed-Methods Study of a Trauma-Informed Community Initiative. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31, 459–472 (2022).

Elisseou, S., Shamaskin-Garroway, A., Kopstick, A. J., Potter, J., Weil, A., Gundacker, C., &
Moreland-Capuia, A. (2024). Leading Organizations From Burnout to Trauma-Informed Resilience: A Vital Paradigm Shift. The Permanente Journal, 28(1), p198.

Fernández, V., Gausereide-Corral, M., Valiente, C., & Sánchez-Iglesias, I. (2023). Effectiveness of trauma-informed care interventions at the organizational level: A systematic review. Psychological
Services.

Fink-Samnick, E. (2022). Collective occupational trauma, health care quality, and trauma-informed leadership: Intersections and implications. Professional Case Management, 27(3), 107-123.

Garcia, A., Sprang, G., & Clemans, T. (2023). The role of school leaders in cultivating a trauma- informed school climate. Children and Youth Services Review, 146, 106816.

Greer, J. A. (2023). Trauma-informed leadership: A new concept or has it been here all along? Administrative Issues Journal: Connecting Education, Practice, and Research, 13(2), 18-27.

Kleine, A. K., Rudolph, C. W., & Zacher, H. (2019). Thriving at work: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(9-10), 973-999.

Perry, B. D., & Jackson, A. L. (2018). Trauma-informed leadership. In Leadership in child and family practice (pp. 125-141). Routledge.

Venet, A. S. (2023). Equity-centered trauma-informed education. Routledge.

Wolotira, E. A. (2023). Trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout in nurses: The Nurse Leader’s
response. Nurse Leader, 21(2), 202-206.

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