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What Is Trauma-Informed Leadership? And Why It Matters

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

What is trauma informed leadership and why does it matter in the workplace culture development process.

Traumatic incidents and stressors can happen when we least expect them, and they can have a profound impact on individuals, teams, and organizations. We are living through an era of human history that is wrought with adversity, disruption, and change. Many of us living in the United States and worldwide have experienced the traumatic effects of disasters, loss, workplace and community violence, civil unrest, and a global pandemic. Unfortunately, the effects of trauma often spill over to the workplace, affecting the mental health and performance of individuals and teams, as well as the success of the business. Leaders must be both competent in their skills to navigate these challenging situations, and compassionate in their actions toward impacted team-members.

What Does Trauma in the Workplace Look Like?

According to Gallup’s 2022 “State of the Global Workplace,” stress is at an all-time high. Traumatic stress can overwhelm people's ability to cope, leading to exhaustion, burnout, and eventually even deteriorating behavioral and physical health. This, of course, has a direct impact on creativity, performance, psychological safety, productivity, and our overall ability to thrive personally and professionally.

Signs someone may be experiencing trauma may include asignificant change in their behavior, such as arriving late to work when they are usually on time, having difficulty completing expected tasks they performed before, or engaging in distant interactions with colleagues. Some team-members may demonstrate signs of anxiety or depressed mood. Everyone has a different response to how they handle trauma, often being influenced by factors beyond their control, such as genetics, historical factors, internal traits, and external sources. A broad range of reactions is to be expected. While some individuals may be able to cope privately and simply have a bad day at work, for others, the situation can last far longer and influence the trajectory of the individual’s life.

Why Trauma-Informed Leadership Is Vital in a Workplace

Trauma-informed leaders accept that people, including themselves, will struggle and sometimes suffer from past and current traumatic experiences. Therefore, it is up to trauma-informed leaders to be able to recognize the signs of traumatic stress, communicate effectively and compassionately in times of crisis, and support those they lead in becoming more resilient.

Trauma-informed leaders can intentionally design workplace practices that support people throughout their coping and recovery processes. When there is a commitment to psychological and physical safety, awareness that trauma is a normal part of life, and willingness to align with employees who need support, a workplace can become a safe haven rather than a conflict zone. Staff members need to feel heard, protected, and affirmed by their company. When this is a lived reality, it can provide a mental model for intentional action and consistent presence to guide them toward a healthy resolution.

Beyond the immediate response, trauma-informed leaders can continue to foster favorable conditions for resiliency and post-traumatic growth through a compassionate presence. When they create a culture that promotes open conversations, it sets the groundwork to build an environment where everyone respects the natural human condition to feel, respond, cope, heal, and continue to grow.

As a business continually normalizes trauma care and cultivates strong trauma-informed leaders, it will better the long-term success of the company and its people. Not only will it create a positive work environment that entices talent and retains employees, but staff will also be able to perform more optimally while collaborating successfully.

Become a Trauma-Informed Leader with Workplace Peace Institute

Managers, executives, and budding leaders across all industries benefit from developing trauma-informed leadership. Such efforts allow them to respond with compassion and empathy, providing the critical support their subordinates may need to successfully cope with their situation or, at the very least, get the assistance they require to recover healthily.


Workplace Peace Institute is an organization systems design and research firm that is singularly focused on creating workplace cultures where people thrive. Workplace Peace Institute supports small to mid-sized businesses in optimizing employee engagement, maximizing organizational productivity, and improving profitability by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model. Our Leadership Academy supports leaders in honoring basic human needs and dignity needs in the workplace, so they can actualize human potential in the workplace. The online Leadership Academy optimizes competencies in human behavior, communication skills, conflict resolution, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging to create highly engaged workplaces where basic human needs and dignity are consistently honored. All our courses are offered online and can be customized for in-person workshops and seminars.


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