Most industrialized cultures have become increasingly sensitized to the impact of stress on workers and the workforce.
Let’s face it, distressed people are bad for business; Productivity, Morale, Health, Safety and more can be compromised. And, these liabilities are equally problematic outside the workplace.
Trauma causes stress that may be PHYSICAL and/or MENTAL. It may affect an Individual or a Group.
Whatever the source, I believe there are THREE (3) Golden Rules in dealing with Distressed Individuals:
- Address the issue in a timely fashion.
- Determine appropriate Action/Assistance, then
- Implement and Follow Up.
Ignoring or delaying unnecessarily is imprudent. Failure to Recognize, Accept and Address problems usually allows them to ferment.
Correspondingly, rushing in like a bull in a china shop is usually unwise. Judgement is required.
It is important to first consider the nature of the distress we might be addressing…
I have seen people (Adults and Children) react to Physical Trauma in vastly different ways. Within these TYPES of response, some cry, others complain incessantly, some go into a shell (even sleep) and others become loud or outwardly vocal.
Even very similar traumas can illicit strikingly varied responses from different people. We react differently to the same problem; the variations can be surprising.
Similarly, the response you might see from a particular individual to PHYSICAL harm will generally be quite different to their response to MENTAL Trauma. Differing stimuli effect different reactions.
Responses to a specific TRAUMA can vary by Age, Personality, Fatigue, Health, Strength, Experience and more. It’s never certain what response you might witness. And, with each general type of response there are innumerable, personal variations.
When dealing with distressed individuals, it’s important to first recognize Clues alerting us something is wrong. These may be subtle changes in Attitude, Behavior, or perhaps even flagrant Mood Swings and Outbursts.
Whatever the situation, something tips us off; we become Aware.
A person who’s upset or out-of-sorts should only be approached by someone they can trust and do respect. If that is not you, channel a discrete alternate to intervene.
Approaches to distressed individuals should be private and not-too-invasive. Allow the person (s) to open-up or back-away if they must. But there should be an approach, which occurs in a safe, neutral place. And, always begin by establishing rapport.
It’s typical to open the discussion by generally noting an individual doesn’t seem themselves, or appears troubled by something.
Next, asking if everything is OK, or is there something I can help you with is a simple, open-handed introduction to identify and address the problem.
Be sensitive to the person’s distress. Downstream you may consult, advise or even direct the individual concerned, but not at the outset. Job one is to LISTEN and LEARN; so, be authentic, empathize.
Once the root of the problem is clearly understood, get the best expertise necessary to help resolve the issue(s). You may be the right person, you might not; recognize your limits.
If third parties are brought in, make sure they are acceptable to the distressed individual(s) and offer no further threat or complication to the existing problem(s). Such outsiders must be appropriately discrete and confidential in their dealings.
When the person is on a recovery path, check in on them. Do this regularly and as non-invasively as possible. Again, offer authentic, appropriate support; never be an unnecessary crutch or that person who interferes inappropriately.
People are traumatized by so many elements of life. Small things to some are life-changing to others and vice versa.
Correspondingly, something traumatic to someone one day might be only a simple annoyance at another time. We each react differently and in sometimes inexplicable ways; the dynamics can be complex and varied.
People in the workplace and your personal life are constantly barraged with challenges and difficulties. Sometimes they suffer set-backs from these impacts.
Even though we should not stick our noses into everyone’s affairs, there’s often times when it’s our job or responsibility. Then, we are the ones who need to make a difference and ease the load.
And note, when in any doubt about the underlying seriousness of someone’s trauma, we should ALWAYS seek professional advice.
So, take a look around. Has someone’s behavior changed? Are there subtle or obvious symptoms of Stress, or Distress?
When people are in trouble, address the issue. By all means take a moment to prudently consider the appropriate approach, but don’t ever fail the person; step up to your responsibilities.