Supporting a Traumatized Colleague – Join Our #MTtalk!

Supporting a Traumatized Colleague – Join Our #MTtalk!

August 13, 2019

“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.”

― S. Kelley Harrell, American author

Please Join Us!

What: #MTtalk
Where: Twitter
When: August 16 @ 1 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. GMT/10:30 p.m. IST)
Topic: Supporting a Traumatized Colleague

Host: @Mind_Tools

When I started posting threads and asking questions on the Mind Tools forums many years ago, the thought never crossed my mind that I’d ever become a member of the Mind Tools team.

Only a year later, I officially joined the Mind Tools community team. And almost every day since July 2008, I’ve logged into the forum to moderate, listen, coach, and support others.

Members often share their funny moments, feel-good stories, and embarrassing situations. But sometimes we receive desperate cries for help from individuals in difficult workplace situations. It could be anything from how to handle a difficult colleague to making a big career decision.

And every so often, there’s a story that stops us in our tracks.

Traumatized With No Warning

John (not his real name) has been a member of Mind Tools for a long time and he often contributes to threads in the forum. He is always generous with his advice and shows much empathy for others.  

But suddenly, about two years ago, John all but disappeared. We’re used to members sometimes going silent for a few weeks so maybe it was no big deal, I thought.

And then, one morning, I logged in and saw John was back. What I read left me breathless.

John is a war veteran who left the army about 25 years ago. However, he explained that he was now suffering from severe PTSD that had manifested literally overnight. It had left him feeling anxious, helpless and confused.

In his many posts since then, John has described what he experiences, the symptoms he has, how they make him feel, and the effect his disorder has on the people around him. He’s also shared the mechanisms he uses to cope on difficult days.

Looking for Help When Traumatized

John isn’t comfortable disclosing his situation to everybody because of the stigma that is still attached to mental health issues. He found this out the hard way.

Early on, John took a few friends and colleagues into his confidence and disclosed his PTSD to them. While he did receive the support he needed from some, he also, unfortunately, experienced a certain degree of betrayal. When someone breached his trust publicly, John felt shame, guilt and fear.

John also taught us that many workplaces, even those with the best intentions, often don’t have managers or human resources personnel who are equipped to deal with traumatized people.

Reactions to a Traumatized Co-Worker

John’s experience has impacted his sense of security, his self-esteem, his family life, and his career. There are only a handful of people John feels he can truly trust and rely on. He has also found an outlet in the Mind Tools forum where he can write about his experiences anonymously in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.

When reading John’s posts, I often wish that he had more people around him that truly understood how to support him. So, during our #MTtalk Twitter chat this week, we’re going to discuss supporting a traumatized colleague.

In our Twitter poll, we asked what you found difficult about supporting such a colleague. Twelve percent of respondents found it difficult to deal with their colleague’s emotions, and 33 percent found it difficult to understand their co-worker’s needs.

We’d love you to participate in the chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

In what different ways could you support a traumatized colleague?
How would you expect your manager to support you?
How might you open a conversation with an employee you suspect is suffering?
Who would you contact if you were concerned about a colleague?
What shouldn’t you do when supporting a traumatized colleague?


To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of our resources for you to browse. (Please note that only Mind Tools Club members and Corporate users have full access to all these resources within a month.)

How to Manage a Team Member With PTSD

Mindfulness in the Workplace

Managing Post-Traumatic Growth

Dealing With Anxiety

How to Manage Defensive People

What Is Stress?

Physical Relaxation Techniques

Random Acts of Kindness

Handling Long-Term Absences in Your Team

How to Manage an Underconfident Person


How to Be Tactful

How to Join the Conversation

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hashtag #MTtalk in your responses.

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