The Hidden Benefits of Post Traumatic Growth

No one disputes that the past 18 months have been some of the toughest that the world have ever experienced and for business leaders, their teams have been through a massive trauma.  The world has changed and life will never be the same again. So, as we start returning to work, as the COVID restrictions ease across the world, leaders need to consider the impact the pandemic has had on their team and act accordingly.

Many of us are familiar with the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) which is “an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events”. It is often experienced by military personnel who return from combat missions abroad and struggle to reintegrate into society due to the trauma they have experienced.  However, it can also be triggered by any situation that a person finds traumatic such as a serious road accident;

violent personal assault, such as sexual assault, mugging, or robbery; a serious health problem or a childbirth experience.

But have you ever heard of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?  In this article, we will examine what is Post Traumatic Growth, how it has impacted your team, and the hidden benefits that this might bring your business.

Post Traumatic Growth is a direct contrast to post-traumatic stress disorder because the individuals actually find benefit from the pain and trauma. It’s almost as if “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Contrary, as it might initially sound the research, is revealing that “people require adversity, trauma, and setbacks in order to grow, find fulfillment, develop as a person and find their inner strength”.

So, what are the hidden benefits of Post Traumatic Growth, and how can leaders leverage these to their best advantage for all involved?

Generally, the benefits of Post Traumatic Growth can be summarised into five different categories:

  1. Personal Strength – having been through adversity people can feel more resilient. They discover hidden abilities and strengths they didn’t know they had which gives them confidence to face new challenges and continue to step out of their comfort zone and experience new things.
  2. Improved Relationships – the need to pull together and rely on others during the adversity helps you appreciate who your friends really are, and the fact that we live in a truly interdependent society. Good relationships are strengthened and family and working relationships improve.
  3. Appreciation of Life – when we realise that our valuable life could be taken away from us we start to have a greater appreciation and gratitude for all that we have. We recognise the small things that have been around us all the time that we never noticed. Personally, I have seen many more people appreciate the beauty of nature and the benefits of being outside.
  4. New Possibilities – at times of adversity we get to reflect on what is happening in our lives and whether that is what we really want. For many of the people I coach have really started to question what they have been doing, does it make them happy, have they been designing the life and business they want, or have they been swept up in the roller-coaster of life. For many this time of reflection made them realise they want different things from their life than they previously thought, and they have revisited their purpose and the difference they want to make in the world.
  5. Spiritual Changes – during adversity people often start to realise the fragility of life and seek to find answers. Sometimes this is found in religion or discovering their higher purpose. For others, it is a process of upgrading one’s ability to navigate through the obstacles of life whilst maintaining inner peace and harmony, so that these events no longer knock you off course.

As our teams return to the workplace leaders need to be aware of the changes that have occurred for their team members. Whilst there is no doubt that some team members might experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is a real opportunity for leaders to leverage the benefits of Post Traumatic Growth, that many team members will experience.

You might discover some team members are more adept and confident in their work than they were previously and are now ready to take on that new challenge. For others, they might be questioning their career choice. Is this job giving me satisfaction I desire? Maybe then it is time to re-examine job roles and explore if there are other options within the organisation that better suit that team member's new priorities.

Maintaining a flexible approach to the mix of working from home versus being in the office will be key to ensure team members can align their priorities with that of the company, as will be helping team members re-build relationships with each other.

Leaders, right now you have the opportunity to help your teams re-connect, re-ignite and re-imagine work. How you respond to this challenge will most likely define the longer-term success of your business.  Are you ready?

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