Dr. Dan Jolivet
Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant The Standard

Dr. Dan Jolivet started working in the behavioral health field in 1980 as he was completing a degree in mathematical statistics and wanted to get some hands-on experience in an applied scientific discipline. His first direct service job in the field was a 1981 work-study position at a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) in Seattle, where he quickly became hooked on trying to understand how people change.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Dan from The Standard about the need for trauma-informed workplaces.

Some Conversation Highlights:

When it comes to trauma-informed workplaces, there are a handful of things that are really key to this. First is that when we’re traumatized, we get kind of a hair trigger fight, flight, or freeze response. In fight or flight, most people are aware that when, take way back in pre-history, when we were attacked by a bear, we had to be responsive. One is if you felt like you could do it and win was to fight. If you felt you could get away, you would flee. And if you couldn’t fight or flee, then you would freeze.

So what we developed and what really all animals have is a fight, flight, or freeze response. And that gets triggered when people have been traumatized, and it gets easier and easier to trigger that instinctual response.

When that happens, a very basic part, a very primitive part of our brain gets activated, the amygdala. And we at that point, are essentially behaving purely on instinct. And at the same time, our communication patterns change because the frontal lobe part of the brain becomes less active. And then the language center gets broke and becomes less active. And so we become less verbal. We have difficulty putting our emotions into words to convey what we’re feeling and experiencing. Or more likely to become very emotional and we’re less likely to plan our actions. We’re more impulsive.

So, when you’re working as a trauma-informed manager, you become sort of sensitized when someone is being triggered. And you’ll hear that a lot in the popular press, when someone says, “I was triggered.”

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Listening time: 37 minutes

 

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Announcer: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s, Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one over-complicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot.

00:26 You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast.

00:38 Today we have Dan on from The Standard, and our topic today is The Need For Trauma-Informed Workplaces. This is going to be fantastic and I can’t wait to get into it.

00:49 Dan, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and The Standard. For those that don’t know The Standard, we’ll just go there, in case somebody doesn’t know, been living under a rock.

Dan Jolivet: 01:01 Sure. So, I’m Dan Jolivet. I’m the Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant for The Standard. Which is a long way of saying, I’m the helping subject matter expert for stay at work, return to work, ABA and healthcare integration services. And I’m a licensed clinical psychologist.

01:20 The Standard is a Life and Disability Insurer. We also provide basically all employee benefits other than a car. Health insurance and pharmacy management, so vision, dental, supplemental, even [inaudible 00:01:39]. One of the largest insurers in the country, although we don’t advertise much so people won’t be familiar with us as much.

William Tincup: 01:48 So, settle this for me, because I think I’ve been using this incorrectly with folks that say it. So, some people will say, “Oh, I…” for whatever, you know. “I have PTSD. I went to the grocery store, they were out of my peanut butter and jelly, or whatever, and had PTSD.”

02:10 I’m like, well that’s, in my mind, I’ve always associated PTSD with the military. So I’m always like, “Wait, you didn’t really have PTSD. You had kind of a form of PTSD.”

Dan Jolivet: 02:23 Yes, yes.

William Tincup: 02:24 Now first of all, I am not a clinical psychologist. Nor do I play one on TV. But it’s always gotten under my skin for some reason. I didn’t serve in the military so it’s nothing like that. But for whatever reason, I’ve always associated one with the other.

02:43 So first of all, tear all that apart.

Dan Jolivet: 02:47 Okay. So first off, for a diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, you have to have been exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.

William Tincup: 03:00 Ah.

Dan Jolivet: 03:01 So for example, people… You know we will get people who say, “I have PTSD because my boss yelled at me.” Well, if you didn’t feel that your life was being threatened, it doesn’t qualify as Post-traumatic stress disorder.

03:20 Now many people have emotional responses to less serious situations and those can impact their work performance. But PTSD really requires that you’ve been exposed to death, injury, or sexual violence.

03:38 Excuse me.

William Tincup: 03:39 That’s perfect. Now I’m going to use that. So, when we talk about traumatic-informed workplaces, let’s lay down some basics for the audience. What are we talking about? What’s the range of things that we’re talking about when we talk about trauma-informed?

Dan Jolivet: 03:58 Well, I think, going back to what you said about the military. You know, obviously people who have served in the military, especially combat veterans, are at high risk for Post-traumatic stress disorder. And that’s the group that gets the most press.

04:15 But really important, when you look at Americans in general, somewhere around 60% of adult Americans will report having experienced at least one traumatic adverse childhood event when they were a kid. And at least a quarter of a tenth experienced three.

04:33 So what we are seeing is a lot of people are traumatized by childhood events. And also sexual violence is extremely common in the United States. More than half of women and almost one in three men report at least one incident of sexual violence in their lives. So trauma is very pervasive in modern society.

05:04 And what we’re doing with trauma- informed management is we’re taking what we know about the neurology, the way that our brains adapt to trauma, and we’re utilizing it to manage people in a way that we’re careful not to retraumatize them.

05:21 There are a handful of things that are really key to this. First is that when we’re traumatized, we get kind of a hair trigger fight, flight, or freeze response. In fight or flight, most people are aware that when, take way back in pre-history, when we were attacked by a bear, we had to be responsive. One is if you felt like you could do it and win was to fight. If you felt you could get away, you would flee. And if you couldn’t fight or flee, then you would freeze.

05:59 And so what we developed and what really all animals have is a fight, flight, or freeze response. And that gets triggered when people have been traumatized, and it gets easier and easier to trigger that instinctual response.

06:17 And when that happens, a very basic part, a very primitive part of our brain gets activated, the amygdala. And we at that point, are essentially behaving purely on instinct. And at the same time, our communication patterns change because the frontal lobe part of the brain becomes less active. And then the language center gets broke and becomes less active. And so we become less verbal. We have difficulty putting our emotions into words to convey what we’re feeling and experiencing. Or more likely to become very emotional and we’re less likely to plan our actions. We’re more impulsive.

07:08 And so, when you’re working as a trauma-informed manager, you become sort of sensitized when someone is being triggered. And you’ll hear that a lot in the popular press, when someone says, “I was triggered.”

07:24 What that means is that their instinctual fight, flight, or freeze response is being triggered and they’re acting in a way that’s specific to a past situation. It’s not just that they’re angry, or irritated, or anything like that. They’re having the strong reaction that is really based in the past. And they’re not really dealing with the present.

07:55 And once you learn to identify that, once you’re able to identify that someone’s been triggered, then as a manager you can take a couple of different steps to help avoid retraumatizing the person. Such as taking them out of the threatening situation. Giving them an opportunity to quiet down, to calm down to avoid feeling like they’re threatened. You know, speaking in a calm, reassuring voice. Listening if they want to share what’s going on. If you need to give them directions, communicating very concrete specific language. And particularly, being prepared to offer resources to help if they feel they want them.

08:44 You know, such as hopefully they’ll [inaudible 00:08:46], but things like contacting their insurance company or a community agency.

08:55 So, trauma-informed management is really about trying to help people when they’re triggered, and not seeing them as just behavior that inappropriate.

William Tincup: 09:09 But one of the things I wanted you to take on is the kind of visible versus invisible. So when talk, and I’m so glad that we’re talking about being triggered because you know, it can happen in a range of ways. Obviously, you’re a psychologist, you know this. And it can kind of manifest and you can see it kind of happen or not. And sometimes people are triggered and it isn’t seen.

Dan Jolivet: 09:38 Yes.

William Tincup: 09:38 At least as I understand it, people suffer in silence.

Dan Jolivet: 09:44 Absolutely. And when we think triggering, people tend to think of sort of a hyper-arousal.

William Tincup: 09:52 Why?

Dan Jolivet: 09:53 Aggressive, very powerful response.

William Tincup: 09:57 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 09:58 Which is typically fight or flight. You know, the most often the fight response. However, in my experience more people respond with the freeze response, which is hypo-arousal. You know, people become unusually quiet. They aren’t reactive to a situation. They avoid eye contact. They physically and psychologically withdraw.

10:24 And in that situation, they’re shutting down and it can be deceptive because you know, it seems like nothing is going on. But they still experience very strong emotions. So they keep fear and a sense of paralysis. And they’re also going through the same issues of having difficulties with looking at logically. Difficulty communicating what’s going on. And as a result, someone who’s frozen with fear can fly under the radar.

William Tincup: 10:58 Mm-hmm.

Dan Jolivet: 11:00 And that’s an area that’s difficult for managers and really people in general to identify. Because you think, “Well, they’re not raging,” and I’ve certainly seen, particularly combat veterans who fly into a rage. But once you become attuned to what it’s like when someone is triggered into a freeze response, it creates a… I have trouble articulating it because it’s kind of like, it’s just an odd force to be experiencing being that. But suddenly it’s as if they’re absent or they’ve turned off. And once you notice that, then you can start realizing, “Oh, this person is being triggered.” And it’s just as important to address, or if not more important to address that kind of triggering as it is when someone, let’s say, has an outburst.

William Tincup: 12:01 You know, one of the things, because we’re talking about it now, three years ago… Let’s just say pre-COVID. We’ll just keep it simple. Pre-COVID empathy and in the office… there wasn’t as much progress. Let’s just leave it there. But because of the pandemic… At least again, from my perspective, there’s a whole lot of empathy in pretty much every call. Especially at the beginning, I think some of that might not… So when we say attuned to our employees, would we say… Or to managers, “Are you attuned to what’s going on?” If they don’t have that skillset on how to be attuned, or et cetera, maybe they shouldn’t be leading. Maybe they shouldn’t be managers, so it could be a simple answer. But how do we teach them?

Dan Jolivet: 13:00 Well-

William Tincup: 13:00 How do we teach them to be attuned to those things.

Dan Jolivet: 13:04 It is possible to teach people to be empathic and-

William Tincup: 13:08 Yes.

Dan Jolivet: 13:09 … you know a lot of the focus is on communication experience and helping people to recognize when you’re communicating in an effective way… I often joke about, in conversations, that I may be sort of running every conversation and thinking about the next thing I’m going to say rather than really listening to the other person.

13:35 And so there are communication strategies that can be used when… I’m forgetting the name of it, communication training. But there are all sorts of communication strategies. I teach my clients to use a process where you listen and then validate the appearance. So if someone said, “Well, I’m scared right now.” Rather than jump into something like you know, “What are you scared about?” And things like that. You’d pause and say, “So I understand, make sure I’m getting this right, you’re feeling frightened?” And you’re not moving forward until they affirm what you’ve said.

14:15 So you know you’ve got their experience right. And it can be a subtle to really stick with someone and listen and pay attention, and not move ahead. You know, I think we are intended, especially as managers, and especially as men, to move right to solution. And say, “I know you’re afraid. Do this.” And we need to sit with the experience first.

14:48 So communication is really a key part of it. But then also, when we sit with our own feelings, in order to express our own feelings and understand them.

15:01 One thing I’ll point out too, about the pandemic and PTSD is for an event to be traumatic, it just needs to be distressing for that person regardless of how other people view it. So on the one hand, I’ve heard people saying, “Oh, you can’t be traumatized by COVID because it’s a hoax.” Well, whether or not it’s a hoax, which I don’t believe, but if someone feels like or felt like going to the grocery store was taking their lives into their own hands was really putting themselves in state where they were in danger of catching the disease and dying-

William Tincup: 15:49 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 15:50 … that’s sufficient enough. That’s a perception that is sufficient enough to cause Post-traumatic stress disorder or even just to have an emotional response. So, it doesn’t have to be… So we speak logically, you could say, “Well, you weren’t really in danger.” But the crux of the issue is they felt like they were and that is what sort of triggers this fight or flight response.

16:17 So it’s important to recognize, and that’s part of being empathic is realizing the other person’s experience isn’t the same as mine and they might have experienced something as overwhelmingly distressing, when I would say, “Ah, you didn’t even have to wear a mask or gloves or whatever,” but you don’t say that. So we can teach people to be more empathic.

William Tincup: 16:46 Well, you know one of the things that I love about this is just the open discussion. That I think one silver lining of COVID, if you will, is people talk and feel like they can talk more about mental health in general at work.

Dan Jolivet: 17:02 Yes.

William Tincup: 17:03 Which is, thank God. We’re only 100 years late. But it is nice that people can actually talk about depression and medication, and things that they’re going through, et cetera. So I like that. I also like, particularly about this discussion, it’s talking about triggers and what triggers you, maybe historically. What’s triggering you right now. Like I would assume these things aren’t static. That over time and with experience bad or good, triggers can change.

17:39 But I think one that like is in the education system, the generation Gen Z, Millennials to some degree, have really brought the discussion of accommodations to the forefront-

Dan Jolivet: 17:58 Yes.

William Tincup: 17:59 … of school. So if you have Gen Z, you understand this pretty well because when you go to school, the administrators and the teachers and pretty much everyone you interact with are all talking to you about what accommodations does your student need?

Dan Jolivet: 18:15 Yes.

William Tincup: 18:16 Right? And I like that because it’s like, first of all, where was this when I went to school? A. B.

Dan Jolivet: 18:24 Yes.

William Tincup: 18:24 I just like the fact that we’re talking about it for all students, not just special students. Not just these students. But we’re talking about it.

18:32 And I think we can do the same thing with triggers. Where we just openly talk about, “Okay, here’s what’s winding me up. Here’s what’s triggering me.” This week, today, et cetera.

Dan Jolivet: 18:46 Yes.

William Tincup: 18:46 So it kind of creates an atmosphere where it’s okay to talk about.

Dan Jolivet: 18:50 Yes, and that is for me, really where opening as a culture can go. Unfortunately, it’s sort of a mixed bag. So with Millennials and Gen Z’s, we found we went to research back in 2020, we had found that younger workers were being impacted more because they’re having much higher rates of mental distress because of substances. We found that over 60% of the Millennials reported some kind of mental distress or substance use issue. Whereas for Gen Z, it was over 70%.

William Tincup: 19:32 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 19:33 So, they’re really struggling and on the one hand, they’re more vocal about it. They’re more verbal, they’re more likely to say what’s going on while expecting more from their employers.

19:47 But on the other side, so paradoxically, we also found that younger workers were less aware of their benefits and where to go for help. So, they’re struggling more, expect more, but don’t have the same awareness of benefits and of who do they reach out to?

William Tincup: 20:11 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 20:12 That puts them in a really difficult position, because as you sort of mentioned, there are effective accommodations for these situations. There are things we can do to mitigate it. Even just as simple as modifying the person’s break schedule so they can take time to re-center themselves. That could be the TV, exercising what their therapist might have suggested.

20:40 So there are ways to accommodate people with these kind of issues, but you need to do a better job as employers communicating what those benefits are and how to access it.

William Tincup: 20:58 And you know what’s great about this is, again, continuing the conversation we were having, is you know work is stressful. I don’t care-

Dan Jolivet: 21:05 Yes.

William Tincup: 21:05 … what you do workwise.

Dan Jolivet: 21:08 Yes.

William Tincup: 21:08 There’s an element of stress to it. Maybe you’re not a fireperson running up a ladder going into fires, but there’s stress to every job.

Dan Jolivet: 21:18 Yes.

William Tincup: 21:18 So recognizing that publicly as a leader and saying, “Okay, there’s stress here at the job. But there’s also stress elsewhere, outside the job.” Stress that’s come from historical or otherwise, so it is a part of work for us to help you with the stress that’s obviously here. If you’re a call center employee, there’s odd stress that comes with that job. But also, there’s stress that you’re bringing in to the job.

Dan Jolivet: 21:51 Yes.

William Tincup: 21:52 And so that’s trauma. And dealing with that and consuming it in a way that’s again, there’s not a… when we’re taking the voodoo out of it. We’ve taken some of the stigma away from it.

22:06 And again, I think you’re dead on. I think these kids that are graduating, they’re going into the workforce and expecting that the workforce is ready for them and they’re not. They’re not. They’re clearly not. I can tell you that they’re just not ready for having discussions around accommodations, much less you know, people needing to take a day off. And being open about it, like “Hey, I’m going to take Monday off. I just need to go to museum. I really need to kind of get myself back together.” Like, that’s a common conversation with somebody under 40.

Dan Jolivet: 22:41 Yes.

William Tincup: 22:43 But again, workplaces, they’re not necessarily set up that way.

Dan Jolivet: 22:49 Yes, well-

William Tincup: 22:49 Go ahead.

Dan Jolivet: 22:49 Well, I think part of it is that we, our culture has sort of adapted approach where we’re all often stuck in sort of a reactive stress response.

William Tincup: 23:03 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 23:04 where we’re sort of dealing with a low level pervasive sense of threat and danger. And so we’re always sort of on the edge of either fight or flight or freeze.

William Tincup: 23:16 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 23:17 And we don’t get the opposite. So the opposite of fight or flight or freeze is one side of our nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates that when we’re in danger. But there’s a parallel, the parasympathetic nervous system that drives what we call the rest and digest response, or feed and breathe. And there was movement back into the ’70s I think, called The Relaxation Response.

William Tincup: 23:50 Right. Right. Right.

Dan Jolivet: 23:50 It’s come back now as mindfulness meditation. But it’s, I often think that way back, you know when we were being attacked by bears we would have these periods of sheer terror.

William Tincup: 24:06 Oh, 100%.

Dan Jolivet: 24:08 But then we could recoup and we could relax.

William Tincup: 24:12 At one point the bears have to hibernate.

Dan Jolivet: 24:15 Right. But in modern society we tend to get those, and just have ongoing pervasive stress. And we need to learn relaxation.

William Tincup: 24:26 Right.

Dan Jolivet: 24:27 One of the things that I have sort of been moving towards, I have a colleague, Joel Bennett. He founded a path called Organizational Wellness & Learnings, who has been talking with me. He’s been pushing me on what he calls Thriving for Management. But basically, managers can also act in ways that support people’s resilience in their ability to thrive by doing things like offering greater flexibility.

William Tincup: 25:00 Mm-hmm.

Dan Jolivet: 25:01 Or not pushing when someone says like, a standard reason to give the process or policy of, we get a few personal days every year that we used to might have called mental health days. But we don’t have to say, “Oh, I’m feeling depressed.”

William Tincup: 25:19 Right. Unless you feel comfortable talking about it, right.

Dan Jolivet: 25:21 Yes.

William Tincup: 25:22 If there’s this safe environment. Again, space to listen and space to talk, if there’s a space to do that great but you don’t have to. It’s not-

Dan Jolivet: 25:33 Yeah.

William Tincup: 25:33 You don’t to just lead with, “I’m taking a mental health day.”

Dan Jolivet: 25:36 Right, and it’s that kind of flexibility, but also market a positive approach to stress in the managers who take time off, who take a moment to, literally to breathe and re-center themselves. Taking breaks, things like that.

William Tincup: 25:56 It’s celebrating-

Dan Jolivet: 25:57 Yes.

William Tincup: 25:58 It’s like a lot of things. It’s with leadership, when the leaders show a kind of mental acuity and they show that they need to take some time off, or they’re feeling stressed.

Dan Jolivet: 26:12 Yes.

William Tincup: 26:12 Or they’re going through and learning empathy. When leaders do that, then everyone else has the green light to then feel like, again do it or don’t do it, that’s fine.

26:26 But Dan, I could to you for all day. And of course I looked down, I’m like “Oh, my God. He’s late to his next meeting.”

26:33 Thank you so much. This has been such a wonderful topic. We’ll have to dig into it again and go a little bit deeper. But thank you so much for the time today.

Dan Jolivet: 26:41 You’re welcome. I appreciate it and I had a great time talking with you.

William Tincup: 26:45 Awesome.

Dan Jolivet: 26:45 I look forward to doing it again.

William Tincup: 26:49 100% and thanks for everyone listening to The RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.

Announcer: 26:54 You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcasts, webinars, articles, and news at Recruit.

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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