Growth After Trauma

HBR, July-August 2020

Facts and opinions

Don’t confuse with resilience. Resilience == bouncing back after failure.

PTG is an outcome of challenging yourself, beliefs, attitudes leading to a new self - resulting from personal growth.

Not to say there aren’t any lifetime psychological consequences.

  • Good help for others: expert companionship: encouraging introspection, curiosity, actively listening and offering compassionate feedback.

Facilitation of PTG

  • Education: trauma is a disruption of core belief systems. Repetitive thinking: why, who’s in control, what should I do? Accept that the world is not going to be the same post-pandemic.

  • Emotional regulation: Right frame of mind, focus less on the loss, but more on the successes and best-case scenarios, reflect on the company’s resources. Do physical exercise and (if you find it helpful) meditative practices. Demonstrate poise under pressure. Communicate with your people more to reduce their isolation.

  • Disclosure: talk openly about what has happened and is happening, small/broad effects, personal/professional impact, individual/organizational -- anything to make sense out of the trauma and reflect productively. Helping others must be driven (and look like) curiosity [i.e. how to help], not concerns. Semi-group therapy: invite others to tell their stories, start with your story for people to come to terms with their challenges vs yours.

  • Narrative development: The past (bad) stories are in the past, need to move on. Shape the narrative for yourself and the organization post-trauma.

  • Service: focusing on helping others/communities to overcome the difficulties and find meaning, providing relief during the crisis is beneficial to both yourself and the people around you. And write a game plan for the next crisis.

The benefits

  • Personal strength: people handle trauma better than they think they do. Teams become more coherent, with a clearer picture of their collective knowledge, skills, resilience and growth potential.

  • New possibilities: certain old projects finally can be done, new business models emerge, etc.

  • Improved relationships: trauma helps forge new relationships and strengthen the existing ones. Bonding experience for the organization.

  • Appreciation for life: confronted with fear and loss, we often become better at noticing what we still have but may have previously overlooked. Leaders need to communicate this to the staff.

  • Spiritual growth: People: challenges of core beliefs à design life worth continuing to live. Organizations: are we conducting our businesses ethically? Why do we exist? Time to rethink this, perhaps, with the Board.

Reflect on

  • What good can come out of this crisis/trauma for your organization?