Stress and trauma are rampant in many of today's demanding work environments, resulting in a wide range of detrimental consequences to employees and organizations. In addition to the demands of their work, government agencies and other organizations face major societal challenges: lingering impacts of COVID-19; systemic racism and oppression; and mass violence, both domestic and international.
When an occupation exposes a workforce to toxic substances, employers supply protective masks, gloves, and suits. Yet organizations that operate with high levels of stress, burnout, and trauma exposure rarely provide adequate protection for emotional wellbeing. Instead, the burden is on the individual employee to manage their stress quietly through “self-care”... and perhaps rush to get help when they reach a breaking point.
Neuroscience shows that unresolved and overwhelming stress distorts brain function and behavior: physical health and emotional resilience decline; personal and professional relationships are damaged; engagement and productivity plummet; and feelings of fear and anxiety dominate. No organization can afford these consequences.
We do not accept the idea that people should persist
in the midst of toxic stress.
To make things worse, people who aspire to do something meaningful about workforce stress have to navigate internal obstacles. They are told to “suck it up.” Or that “this is just the way it is.” Stigma prevails.
All too often, when a challenging pattern of behavior emerges, leaders over-focus on an individual rather than examining the work context as a major contributing factor. Organizational dysfunction continues and everyone loses.
We now know better—and we do not have to accept this status quo. We now have scientific knowledge and resilience-building strategies that lead people to thrive in demanding environments. It’s time to cultivate workplaces where stress and fear are not simply managed, but examined and reduced at their root causes; where people are protected from unnecessary suffering and preventable breakdowns; and where everyone in the enterprise feels safe to acknowledge the personal toll of getting the job done.
It’s time to create a culture of solidarity and compassion that naturally inspires elevated performance, positive outcomes, and widespread wellbeing.
It’s time for Wellbeing Operationalized℠.