Leading Others During Difficult Times

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What are some reactions I may witness and/or experience myself during traumatic events?

  • Shock, confusion, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, despair, withdrawal, distraction.
  • Concern for the safety and wellbeing of others and oneself.
  • Fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite.
  • Questions about and anger with the events themselves.
  • Reflecting on past wartime events and related consequences.
  • Concerns about future stability.
  • Wondering how to assist those being directly impacted by war and other world events while continuing to focus on doing our jobs.
  • Uncertainty about if or how to discuss complicated issues at work.


How can I support those who report to me?

  • It is important to be authentic in your interactions and expression of care and concern. If your behavior and words do not align with your existing relationships and interactions, individuals are unlikely to feel safe and genuinely supported.
  • Ask each person - individually - how they are and how you can best support them.
    • As concerns are raised, acknowledge what is occurring and be clear about what support you can provide.
    • Remind your team that people have unique lived experiences and navigate stressful situations differently. Encourage generous thinking and compassion.
    • Provide information about resources available (at the end of this email).
    • For staff experiencing significant impacts, consider what flexibility can be afforded to existing projects/deadlines and work schedules.

What should I be cautious about and respectful of?

  • How your own sensitivities and strong feelings, reactions, questions and opinions might impact others.
  • Avoid making statements that diminish the experience of others and encourage others to be aware and thoughtful of this too.
  • Be wary of “superhero syndrome.” This is when we try to “fix” the experiences or feelings of others, which is often to make ourselves more comfortable in the moment. Instead, focus on active listening and being present.
  • With evolving global news, facts can shift quickly. Avoid repeating unverified information.
  • Stressful events are not an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Address this behavior professionally and act accordingly. This includes interrupting targeted behavior toward any nationality, ethnicity, faith, or other identity. If help is needed:

What can we do as individuals or as a team?

What resources are available to me and/or my staff?

For those with children, this guide from Weill Cornell Medicine helps families cope with tragedy.