Embedding A Trauma-Informed Framework In Business
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
By Anjali Chainani, PhD
As a social worker with 20 years of experience working in social service organizations and local government, I believe organizations within resource-constrained environments and in public service must integrate a trauma-informed lens in their policies and practices. Roles within these organizations often have very high emotional demands.
How leaders and managers behave in the workplace can trigger our peers and employees to disengage, experience toxic stress, and re-experience past or current trauma.
Arguably, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and devastated economy, leaders in every sector have witnessed the impact of trauma on their peers and employees. There is no denying that trauma can affect our ability to think, learn, and manage change.
As the CEO of Anavi Strategies, my personal passion and commitment is that the people maneuvering in and around organizational systems are empowered to take action, in spite of the trauma we experience as humans, but also as clients, as employees, and as leaders. In order to do this, my public impact consulting business will operate using a trauma-informed framework.
My commitment embodies more than attending annual conferences and organizing employee training on trauma-informed practices. While those investments are critically important, I want my awareness of trauma, it’s impacts, and how we talk and behave as a result of this knowledge to be visible in every detail of how Anavi Strategies conducts its day-to-day business.
I want each person we do business with, and interact with, to feel understood, seen, and heard. Integral to this is developing an organizational culture that supports this commitment.
This is a journey and I am at the beginning! I am starting by applying my existing understanding of trauma-informed principles, and adapting it to generate an operational manual for Anavi Strategies. Embedding trauma-informed behaviors in the workplace requires a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. Ultimately, I want to create an internal guiding document, which can eventually serve as an asset for our business clients and colleagues.
Here are three ways Anavi Strategies is putting a trauma-informed framework into practice in our day-to-day business operations:
Practice 1: We create an empowering context using our language
At Anavi Strategies, we are building a culture of empowerment. In practice, this is about creating opportunities for every individual to voice their perspective as we plan and do our work. We make sure the words we choose make others feel valued and cared for, and that people feel supported.
In order for clients, contractors, and employees to speak openly and honestly, we are committed to creating an environment that is psychologically safe for open and honest communication.
These principles of safety and trustworthiness are generated as workplace culture in two ways: through our language, and through our behaviors.
We use our language with clients, contractors, and peers in the following ways:
We practice validation. Validation is the acknowledgement that a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors make sense at that moment, given the context of who that person is and their history.
We listen without jumping to conclusions or imposing solutions unless we are asked.
We inquire and ask questions to better understand.
When we offer advice, we do so with compassion and empathy, and without judging.
Practice 2: We willingly adapt to circumstances and maintain teamwork as a core value
Being willing to adapt to circumstances is a part of our operational strategy. This level and type of flexibility does not mean my business lacks structure, but rather we implement flexibility to ensure each person has what they need to be productive and thrive.
Using a flexible approach requires that I accept there is no “one size fits all” approach. I will continue to seek to understand the needs and limitations of each team member and each client, and adapt accordingly. This is my goal, but it is also a value of my organization, and an attitude I ask people who work with me to adopt.
I value that people have lives outside of the workplace, and as a leader, my attitude is to actively encourage employees to pursue hobbies and interests outside of work. I also value that my business delivers high-quality services to our customers, and what each person needs to deliver on that promise may be different. I accept this, and I will use a collaborative approach to identify what works, and what doesn’t.
A benefit of flexibility in the workplace is that it is flexible. Not everything is going to fall in place all at once, and not every strategy will yield the results I desire. Starting with a trial period, testing changes, and seeing what works and what doesn’t is going to be an essential component in my journey. I am committed to ensuring there are clear channels of communication, opportunities to give and receive feedback from clients, contractors, and peers, and use those data points to determine what is most effective.
Practice 3: We normalize talking about mental health and well-being
At Anavi Strategies, we are committed to normalizing discussions about how our mental health can be impacted by our work and day to day life. Whether an employee, contractor, or client decides to discuss their mental health is entirely up to them. As an organization, we practice checking-in with each other, and make space for support or flexibility as requested.
The value of promoting awareness about mental health is to reduce fears about discrimination, shame, and judgement. I am also committed to establishing and regularly sharing company mental health policies, support available, and additional resources to ensure we all have access to information to better take care of our health and well-being.
Here are four resources I am using to continue my own education and inform my business practices.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-Specific Resource
Stay in Touch
Transforming a passion and a commitment into a practice model is daunting. I invite you to join me on this journey. Know of additional resources? Leave a comment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org!