Time to test trauma management at work

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




(2000), "Time to test trauma management at work", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 24 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/jeit.2000.00324eab.004



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Time to test trauma management at work

Time to test trauma management at work

Keywords: Stress, Work, Employee assistance programmes

When employees experience traumatic incidents at work, organisations are frequently caught out in dealing with the aftermath and effects. Growing awareness and legislation have led many employers to adopt popular practice and intuitive responses. However, fresh research reveals that, while providing a sound management framework is beneficial, the inclusion of techniques such as debriefing requires urgent re-evaluation.

Dr Jo Rick (Institute for Employment Studies) and Dr Rob Briner (Birkbeck College) presented recent developments in this area to the Occupational Psychology Conference, in the UK, earlier this year, calling for urgent evaluative research into trauma management at work.

As Dr Rick explains:

When tragedy strikes, it is the wrong time to start deciding what to do or how to respond; this is why the use of popular "ready-made" frameworks is so widespread. Our concern is that the automatic inclusion of debriefing in these frameworks may present problems. At best its efficacy is neutral and at worst it can be damaging. This fact should be of concern to any organisation with trauma management services.

Research into the efficacy of interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the main has focused on individuals admitted to hospital. Little research has been done in organisations. When psychological trauma happens within the organisation, the environmental influences and context introduce a whole new set of relationships. Drs Rick and Briner comment:

Debriefing is widespread in industry because there is unquestioned belief in its success. However, there is a lack of evidence that debriefing is effective in industry settings, and some general research evidence that there are circumstances in which debriefing is harmful. There is an urgent need for follow-up evaluations of its effects on staff in organisational contexts. It is also important for organisations to consider the other ways in which they can respond to traumatic incidents at work.

For further information about this and related studies within the Institute for Employment Studies, contact: Jo Rick. Tel. 01273 686751.

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