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PTSD in the Washington Region – Hidden in Plain Sight

Living in the National Capitol Region, we share the area with many military installations and service members. Americans pride themselves on supporting the military. People rally around the returning troops, attend fundraisers to help support individuals, brave freezing December temperatures to lay wreaths at military cemeteries, and countless other opportunities to show their gratitude. Some even come together to build homes for those who have sustained more severe injuries that require building accommodations for prosthetics, wheelchairs, and other mobility-enhancing devices.

But what about those soldiers, men, and women, who carry silent burdens? Many look the same but suffer the natural consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a study by the RAND Corporation, at least 20 percent of service members returning from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression, PTSD, or both. Military counselors estimate those numbers to be higher, especially when coupled with a TBI or traumatic brain injury.

As veterans transition into a civilian work environment, both themselves and their employers must understand how PTSD may impact everyone. They must work together to develop solutions so both the company and the veteran have the best chance at creating a successful work environment for all. According to 2012 research from Babbel, PTSD can impact veterans in many ways including memory loss, which can impact those struggling to learn new tasks on new jobs or function in meetings; lack of concentration; stress, including panic attacks, flashbacks, and emotional extremes resulting in the potential inability to work well with colleagues and managers; and hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, large crowds, and unknown areas resulting in headaches, migraines and panic attacks. Many veterans may not be used to the traditional work structure as compared with the military rank structure. This can cause stress and frustration as the employee works to forge a new path. For someone suffering from PTSD-induced memory loss, being unable to remember how to do that basic task explained earlier in the day may cause the individual to become overwhelmed and then lash out and blame a colleague or a supervisor. These types of negative responses can impede the development of relationships and workplace morale, particularly if other employees don’t understand that the incident isn’t about them. As the tension comes to light, it’s important to identify the root cause. Is it coming from one of the identified symptoms of PTSD? Supporting Individuals with PTSD in the workplace

  • Create a safe place to ask questions and work together
  • Bring in a trained facilitator/consultant to work with both management and veterans to better
    understand issues and then develop solutions
  • Develop written procedures, meeting notes, and training manuals so employees can refer back if they
    missed something at a session or need additional refreshers
  • Have published calendars for team tasks so individuals can refer to these privately
  • Provide access to alternate/softer lighting in workspaces
  • Initiate organization-wide strategies for managing stress
  • Set aside money for additional training for new members
  • Provide disability training to all team members

A solid relationship between employees and managers is critical for a productive workplace. This may be difficult for a veteran suffering from PTSD, working for a manager with little to no awareness of their background. Just like any employee, if the manager exhibits a lack of empathy for the individual’s situation, it becomes more difficult for the employee to be successful. This is magnified for someone struggling with PTSD.

Transitioning into a new workplace is difficult for anyone, but for those who bear the biggest burden for our freedoms, the task can seem impossible. If everyone did their part, the difference would be immeasurable.

This article was initially published in Prince William Living Magazine.
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Set Your Sights Right for 2017

The national mood in 2016 has been the subject of a lot of writing. Even more difficult to forecast is right here in Northern Virginia. Will it be a boom or a bust? people worry amid the concern for locals who work for the federal government or its contractors directly. Will the Metro still securely transport us to and from work? How will tolls on Route 66 change? As we wait to see how our lives and livelihoods will alter, we are nearly holding our breath.

Remember to celebrate 2016’s triumphs as you turn the calendar from December to January and sigh with relief that it’s a new year.

The last 32 months have seen solid employment growth in Virginia.
According to Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., the median price of a home in Prince William County climbed by 4% in 2016.

Both personally and professionally, there is room for development and opportunity in our neighborhood. Your success in 2017 will depend on how you set your goals.

Instead of looking back on the year and wondering, “Why didn’t I do that?”

Look at the steps you took to implement the change you wanted to see. (Insert the item that was on the list from the previous year.) Decide what worked well. Then take into account a few of these suggestions to kick off 2017:

Find a mentor, executive coach, or professional organization.
Attend networking and career-related events.
Enroll in a webinar online in your field.
Even if you are not seeking a job, update your resume.
Try to improve your health little by little.
Recruit relatives or friends as a support system to help you stay on track.
Obtain enough rest.

According to studies, writing down precise goals increases success more than simply thinking about them. Make sure to record yours.

Remember that taking action is the only way to bring about change and growth in 2017. Your own objectives won’t materialize immediately. It might take a full year longer.

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Communicating from Our Corners

Election month, November is finally here. The political vitriol and hate speech will stop (hopefully). With internet jokes, pundit reports, and social media shouting at us in a never-ending cycle, it’s difficult to tune it out. I’m your neighbor from up north, and I think a lot of it is a communication issue. The United States has genuinely stopped listening and talking as a country.

Let’s examine the previous several months and how we got here.

Republicans came first, but only because of the order of their convention.

Ted Cruz declined to support Trump. For the purposes of this conversation, it doesn’t matter if you loved or supported him. What counts is that a group of people booed him, engaging in improper behavior of their own. This shows how strongly they felt about his message. Delegates then began to abuse him on the convention floor, calling him a traitor and other derogatory terms.

The Bernie or Bust Democrats followed suit a week later. Even after their candidate endorsed the opposing candidate, they refused to accept it and continued to spew hate speech.

then the debates would follow. I listened to a stammering Donald Trump ramble about, I don’t know, anything. I could share some advice with him about how to interact with a crowd as a leadership development expert. Hillary made a sincere effort to connect with the audience despite her worries about her ability to do so. She has been portrayed in the past three weeks’ worth of Saturday Night Live sketches.

Then came a series of one-liners from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, including references to “Nasty Woman” and “Basket of Deplorables.”

Including the allegations of sexual misconduct, Wikileaks, remarks concerning the involvement of other countries, and so forth. We are impatiently waiting to exit the crazy Ferris wheel that is spinning nonstop.

One of the things that make the United States a nation full of ideas and opportunities is the freedom to protest and inquire. But somewhere along the line, people lost the ability to sympathize, compromise, listen, and act rationally rather than emotionally. They have retreated even further into their corners.

Do you stand in a corner and stare out? Have any of the following crossed your mind or lips?
– Because I despise candidate B, I’m going to vote for candidate A. I won’t be casting a vote at all. I wholeheartedly agree with what my candidate says. Everything the other candidate says is unquestionably false. Never support Trump! Never Hillary, I say!

If you answered yes to any of them, you’re probably in a tight spot politically.

What would happen if you declared that you would never collaborate with a person in your office or on your team? What would happen if you were asked to present evidence and information regarding a project to aid in solving a dispute but you objected, claiming the opposing side was incorrect? What would you say if a worker approached you and said, “Never”? There is a good chance that HR would receive a call.

This lack of leadership results from no one paying attention, making concessions, or showing empathy. Booing someone is simple. Finding a solution to a problem and shaking hands is more difficult.

We all have our own niches, but it’s important to identify when we start to attract less attention since all we do is boo. This is when we become the “Never.” And when we turn into the “Never,” we must understand the effect that has on other people.

What do you perceive from your position as a leader? Do you simply perceive things from your own point of view? Or can you move around the room and experience it from someone else’s perspective? Do you anticipate that everyone on your team and throughout the company will adopt your point of view? Or can you see that sometimes being a part of something bigger than yourself requires sacrificing your personal needs and ambitions in order to realize the wider picture? In my book, How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work, I discuss how empathy and perspective-taking are crucial for fostering teamwork. Although it’s not always simple, achieving an organization’s objective and the bottom line is essential to its success.

As an individual leader and a part of your professional and personal communities, I encourage you to turn around and look at things from a different angle. You are not required to alter your opinions. But maybe, just maybe, you can work out a compromise. Your efforts to try and meet individuals where they are will be noticed by your team, and your business will benefit as a result.

Also, don’t forget to use your voting rights!

Read the remainder of the November newsletter at Wise Words here!

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Communication and Integrative Listening

It’s September, happy New Year! Don’t worry, I do know that the actual start of the year is January. Yet for many people, September signifies the start of a major work cycle and a return to more targeted communication. Summer vacations end, children go back to school, days are shorter, and there is a sense of urgency to produce profit, and provide before the actual new year.

This is a good time of year for managers to pay attention to integrative listening. This is a psychological/behavioral skill that means paying attention to others using your whole self. Look people in the eyes when either of you speaks, be sensitive to body language, and today, I would add, keep your phone in your pocket!

Leaders who practice integrative skills communicate with empathy, working to understand where the other person is coming from, even if they don’t agree with why the person feels or thinks that way. They watch the speaker’s body language and listen to their tone of voice. They understand that communication is more than words in isolation.  They learn to respond assertively, using I messages, owning their contribution to the process of communicating, and helping to involve the other parties in the process as well.  As people practice and employ these skills, they begin to appreciate what the other person brings to the table; relationships based on trust lead to more cohesive teamwork.

Now that we have all come back to work, physically and mentally, and that “new year” sense of urgency has started to surge through our workplace, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our behavior and practice integrative skills.  Recognize how our behavior impacts others. Are our ‘contributions’ really contributing to the growth of the team and the organization?  Or are we becoming a deterrent because of our lack of communication skills?  What do you need to focus on before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2016?

Want to learn more? Contact me at info@wisewaysconsulting.com

Wise Words Newsletter’s read the rest of the September newsletter here!

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Are you a reason, a season, or a lifetime?

So here we are again in December.  The time when we reflect and take stock of all that we’ve accomplished or in some cases, not accomplished.  Heck, sometimes it is even difficult to find time during the holiday season to sit still and breathe, let alone reflect!

What did you set out to accomplish in 2016?  But, before you harangue yourself for not finishing everything, think about your year beyond your list of goals.

I’ve always found this poem to be poignant; given that we are nearing the end of the calendar year.

 People always come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
 When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

 When someone is in your life for a REASON,
 It is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly.
 They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
Or to provide you with guidance and support,
To aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend to you, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they just walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, and our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON,
It is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.
They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall,
The season eventually ends.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
Those things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person anyway;
And put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
Thank you for being part of my life,
Whether you were a reason, a season, or a lifetime

Consider the people in your circles at work and social.  Who were/are the reason, people?  What lessons did you learn?  How did you grow?

Who are the season individuals?  What experiences did they bring for you that brought joy?  When the reason and season people in your life moved on, were you able to accept that it was time and think about the growth in your life?

Who are the lifetime folks?  What are you doing to learn from those individuals?

Relationships are not meant to be one-sided.  Think also about your influence on the lives of others.  Who have you represented to them?  Have you been released from a relationship along your journey?  What did you bring to the space that you shared?

At work, if you are a manager/leader you can extend that idea to new employees, new clients, and new upper management.  If you have hired someone for a job you can extend that to the consultants, new customers, and customers you may have lost.

If you are a team member, you can extend that to your boss, co-worker, and the idea that 2017 is the time for a change.  Maybe it’s time for you to push for a promotion, get/finish a degree, or even a new job.

As you move forward into 2017, consider how you will ‘show up’ to those in your life.  Take steps to ensure that you are bringing your authentic self, both in the workplace and in life in general.

To those of you celebrating holidays in the next few weeks, enjoy!

All the best, see you in January!

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