A trauma-informed lens enhances our approach to supervision in several ways. Supervision should be structured to support staff as well as provide opportunities to debrief about their work and advance their skills and knowledge. Operating from a trauma-informed lens allows supervisors to have a more individualized and supportive relationship with their employees. This affords a greater ability to cultivate strengths and provide individualized responses when an employee may be struggling. It is crucial for organizations to create safe spaces for meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations, and to mitigate the impacts of personally experienced and vicarious trauma (Walsh, 2017).
Trauma-informed supervision is not therapy. Therefore, part of trauma informed supervision is recognizing your role and responsibilities, gaining education to more clearly understand others’ challenges, and making appropriate referrals and connections to resources.
Please read and reflect on the Toolkit materials, incorporate them into your practices, and refer students and staff to the appropriate support resources, which are covered in the Toolkit.
The principles of trauma-informed care are:
- Trustworthiness & Transparency
- Peer Support
- Collaboration and Mutuality
- Empowerment & Choice
- Cultural Humility and Competency
Suggested ways to integrate this into the workplace include:
- TAKE AN INDIVIDUALIZED APPROACH
- Download this helpful handout: Questions for Supervising with Care to Discuss During 1 on 1 Meetings with Your Team
- Employees returning to campus may need individualized support in reestablishing routines that stopped or shifted during the pandemic; supervisors often play an essential role in helping staff structure their day to meet their job expectations.
- Seek to understand. Staff are coming back after a very long year exacerbated by the pandemic and other social stressors. Make sure to check-in with staff, faculty, and students without assumptions; this can go a long way to creating a supportive environment. Revisit how often a check-in would be appreciated. Practice offering grace and compassion to others and give yourself the same.
- Understand that people will emerge from the pandemic with different perspectives. Some will be focused and re-energized about their work and returning to the workplace. Others will be fatigued from the long bout of stress and anxiety they have endured. Many individuals will fall someplace in between.
- Supporting mental health and wellbeing. Ensure that employees know what resources are available.
- SilverCloud is an online, self-guided, interactive wellbeing resource for UWM students, staff, and faculty alike. https://uwm.edu/hr/silvercloud/
- The Kepro website provides tools and information to address life’s everyday concerns. Kepro is anonymous, confidential, and secure. You will find research articles, self-paced training, monthly webinars, legal and financial resources, and much more. https://uwm.edu/hr/eap/
- Involve employees in discussions about their workspaces. Discuss the cleaning supplies they may need to sanitize their space. Revisit conversations about physical space and increasing personal comfort in offices as well as meeting spaces.
- BUILD COMMUNITY
- Social support is paramount in persevering through traumatic events. Building a community in the workplace, no matter the size of your team, is incredibly important.
- Some suggestions: Meeting for lunch with a colleague, taking a short walk to grab coffee with someone in your workspace, joining a committee that works on items that you are passionate about, join a class after work, such as a cooking or exercise class.
- Use mindfulness and breathing as appropriate.
- CELEBRATE SUCCESSES & REINFORCE PURPOSE
- Acknowledge staff and celebrate successes: Reinforce the behaviors that are considered vital to improving outcomes, including that successful crisis response relies on leadership and contributions from everyone in the organization.
- Foster a sense of shared purpose, and be clear about what is not changing, despite the volatility of current circumstances. We remain committed to unit and university priorities and values.
- Collaborative leadership and clear communication.
- Everyone contributes toward meeting our institutional goals. Follow a distributed leadership approach that focuses more on shared goals than on rigid adherence to the organizational chart.
- Break free from the default “the way we’ve always done….” mindset.
- Communicate regularly and engender trust with staff.
- HELP EMPLOYEES MANAGE REENTRY ANXIETY
- Make employees’ wellbeing a top priority.
- Share accurate, timely, and transparent information. Communicate next steps in a process when waiting on answers.
- Take swift action to implement recommended health measures.
- Train leaders, managers, and colleagues on how to support employees.
- To recover and to heal, and perform well, staff need access to psychologically safe spaces where they can voice confusion, express frank concerns, and admit mistakes without fear of undue negative repercussions
- Identify non-work concerns and address them.
- Recognize the healing power of listening.
- Acknowledge that we are in it for the long haul and emphasize readiness to provide support as we collectively work toward a healthier future.
- Leaders must promote and model self-care for themselves.
- Access the Remote Work section of the HR website. The site contains valuable information and many resources.
- SMALL THINGS TO HELP EMPLOYEES
- Offer flexibility when you can, with consideration that this will differ per position description. Flexible schedules or alterations to identified work expectations may be helpful here.
- Allow employees to step away from workspace to regroup or clear their minds. A workday walk or lunch away from the office are ways to diversify the workday to be encouraged when possible.
- Allow time for employees to adjust to being back to work on campus.
- Practice active listening in conversations with employees. Make your intention to understand their experience versus being judgmental.
- Consult with colleagues and supervisors on ways to improve team culture this fall.
- Encourage self-care (physical, emotional and mental), and integrate it into your office or unit’s practices (e.g., set days/times dedicated to self-care). Other self-care strategies include having separate interests and passions from work, taking breaks, maintaining connections with people outside the field, humor, and being active in a socio-political movement (Morrison, 2007). Supervisors should make employees aware of support resources such as UWM’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for additional mental health support.
- Empower employees and create safe spaces to bring up concerns or needs.
- Organizationally, you can provide staff with balanced workloads/work types, debrief with staff (if they want to) after difficult conversations, and create a supportive culture that acknowledges and normalizes feelings, and emotions.
Adapted in part from Guidance for Health Care Leaders during Recovery Stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic – Recovery Stage by Gerts, et. al.