Everyone is Traumatized

Published: August 20, 2014

We all perform well under normal circumstances. Poise stands out under stress. When the heat is turned up, look for the teammate with the best coping skills to lead the way. That's not always the designated leader. It's usually whoever has the most relevant experience with managing crisis effectively. Often, it's the teammate with a trauma history. Do you know anyone who has been through a traumatic event?

Everyone is traumatized. It’s not just survivors of abuse or violence who experience trauma. Perhaps you witnessed a bad car accident on the way home from vacation. Possibly you or someone you care about recently experienced a sudden job loss. Maybe an unexpected turn of events stirred up a painful memory. Face it, any significant change in our normal routines ignites an immediate need to adapt and employ a coping strategy.

When we measure performance, whether in interpersonal, team, or organizational settings, we often assume purely normal circumstances support the platform upon which our actions are built. In most cases, however, the platform has a rickety infrastructure weakened by whatever current and past events are disrupting the norm. Those who dance effectively upon a shaky foundation are not trauma-free. They simply have acknowledged their challenges and factored them into the equation of their coping plans.

Practice trauma-informed care. There’s always a story behind the story. Effective teams, like effective relationships, honor the background context as intelligence about how to move forward. Empathy is the currency of understanding.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.