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trauma informed workplace

Guidelines for Leading and Managing in the Aftermath

Leaders and managers play an important role in an organization in the time following a campus related crisis. Consider incorporating relevant actions from the following suggestions.

Expand the sections below for more information.

  • Prioritize clear, supportive, and routine communication touch points.
  • Communicate honestly and transparently.
  • Listen empathetically and without judgement.
  • Provide updates based on known facts.
  • Consider how and when communications are delivered, taking into consideration the potential effect on the recipients.
  • Acknowledge that trauma effects everyone in a unique way, make decisions accordingly.
  • Maintain current information regarding support resources, share generously.
  • Promote flexible ways of communicating.
  • Check in with self periodically and routinely.
  • Be mindful of shared values, use values to ground the work at hand.
  • MSU Values: Collaboration, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Respect
  • Demonstrate awareness and understanding for the diverse needs of others.
  • Be intentional when making work or space related decisions.
  • Offer flexibility when possible.
  • Help foster a sense of stability and inclusion.
  • Determine a schedule for regular check ins with employees in groups and with individuals. Collaboratively determine the intent and approach to these check ins.
  • Ask questions such as,
    • “How can we use this time in way that is helpful to you?”
    • “Is there anything you would like to discuss today?”
    • “What do you need from our team today? This week? This moment?”
    • “Can I answer any questions about the many available resources?”
    • “You are likely receiving many communications at this time. Can I answer any questions about what you are seeing?”
  • Outside of scheduled check ins, ensure your team is aware of your availability and boundaries.
  • Acknowledge successes and validate the struggles.
  • Offer opportunities for employees to connect with one another.
  • Create opportunities for deep, meaningful work that is connected to purpose. Promote collaboration.
  • If you oversee supervisors, offer support and empower them to make decisions about the accommodation needs of their teams. These might include:
  • Extended deadlines
  • Reprioritization of work
  • Cancellation or change of event plans

Tips for Supporting Employees  

The role of leaders and managers in the wake of tragedy is to ensure employees are supported. Support for employees can be proactive and reactive.

Leaders and managers can take steps to proactively support the needs of employees.

  • Explicitly communicate support for mental health and wellbeing.
  • Promptly share information and updates related to recommended support services.
  • Prevent re-traumatizing employees by adopting a trauma-informed supervision practice.
  • Acknowledge the impacts of the experiences of those in our community.
  • Check in with employees. Encourage caring conversations.
  • Help employees find balance and stability.
  • Heighten awareness of physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing in self and others
  • Be gentle with yourself and others. Lead with compassion.


Leaders and managers should be able to recognize signs of distress in the workplace and respond promptly with thoughtful and reliable resources. 

Recognize signs of emotional distress, what might we see?

  • Changes in appearance, behavior, mood
  • Performance variation
  • Tardiness and absenteeism
  • Withdrawal or lack of participation
  • Irritability or excessive vigilance
  • Easily startled or seemingly aloof
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Trouble communicating
  • Missing deadlines or difficulty completing tasks
  • Increased conflict with colleagues or customers

Additional Learning

Learning About Trauma Informed Care & Workplace Application, Kelly Blanck, LMSW, School of Social Work and Natalie Moser, PhD, Department of Psychology, Worklife Office Lunch and Learn (ppt.) 

Learning About Trauma-Informed Care and Workplace Application, MSU Work Life Office (webinar)

Supporting Your Employees During Hard Times: A Manager’s guide, UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Trauma Informed Colleges Begin with Trauma-informed Leaders, Jason Lynch, Higher Education Today, 2022

Trauma-Informed Supervision: Building Strong Relationships and Organizations, Anole Halper, Relias, 2020

Five Ways to Practice Trauma-informed Leadership, Susan Pohl, Rebecca Larsen, and Sarah McCormick, University of Utah Health, 2021

Trauma Informed Supervision Toolkit, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Trauma-Informed Management – Four Essential Skills for Longer Term Crisis, Nancy Doyle, Forbes, 2020

Strengthen Trauma-informed Staff Practices, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

How to help workers struggling after a mass shooting, Kathryn Mayer, Human Resource Executive, 2023

Supporting Employee Mental Health After Mass Shootings, Stephen Massey, Health Action Alliance, 2022

Going to Work After a Mass Shooting: Our Shared American Experience, Meg Embry, Best Colleges, 2022

A Guide to Trauma-Informed Supervision, PCAR

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