Previously, I discussed a recent experience I had at a conference that promotes healthy human sexuality called “A Pattern of Diversity”. At this conference, I was slated to deliver a presentation about the impact of trauma, the intersection of violence and sexuality, and the continued dismissal of Women of Color from discussions about trauma and healthy sexual identity development. A chance encounter with the plenary speaker challenged me and made me appreciate diverse experiences from another standpoint. Today, I want to further the discussion of diversity by adding trauma as another dimension to understanding individual differences and how organizations can support survivors of traumatic experiences.
Trauma in the Workplace and Classroom
Moreover, trauma is not just about remembering a fearful or otherwise emotionally charged event. Trauma is about experiencing such an event through the lens of the survivor. Therefore, it is not something that remains closed behind doors. It shows up in mainstream institutions, especially the workplace and classroom.
In the classroom, something as normal as the imbalance of authority and power that comes with the student/professor relationship can silently trigger trauma remembrances of previous family or partner abuses. This trauma response could manifest itself in the form of missed assignments, the appearance of disengagement, detachment with peers, and seemingly destructive behaviors such as substance or drug misuse.
In the workplace, the effects of trauma can look like the failure to thrive in a team or competitive atmosphere. For Women of Color, this is especially complicated given the history of oppression and exploitation of females from Indigenous cultures for financial and political gain. The relationship of distrust between ethnic minorities and those of the dominant culture is well documented. Yet, Black and Brown skinned women are thought of as sassy and angry (Sapphire).
An appreciation for a racial milieu and the profitability of diversity are often cited by those who champion diversity, however recognition of trauma as a part of the diversity discussion is one step in the right direction for appreciating different life experiences. Trauma, sexuality and diversity might appear as separate distinct issues that are social but not multicultural concerns. Race, gender and relationship violence that results in trauma produce a mixture that muddies the professional and personal landscape.
With this in mind, consider these (3) points:
- Strong organizational leadership uses clearly defined authority to create safe spaces within the work environment by promoting vicarious resilience such that personal experiences do not limit professional opportunities and growth as a result of survived trauma.
- Strong organizational climates recognize the existence of trauma as a normal reaction to lived experiences, regardless of the source. This means, there is sufficient supervisory and peer support for those who by virtue of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference or social class have come to know trauma as a form of life.
- Strong organizational structures establish clear professional quality standards such that once traumatized individuals continue to have the opportunity to enjoy employment, professional development or education, and autonomous growth.
Add to the discussion:
What can organizations do to better support those that suffer from traumatic experiences that might hinder their ability to thrive within it?
I look forward to your responses below*, and I'd love your input.
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