THE BLOG

Post-Traumatic Job Disorder

02/24/2015 04:51 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

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The name will make you giggle and giggling is good. But the affliction is real and many suffer from it.

Fear-based management is prevalent. Think about your work environments over the years. How many times have you felt beaten down, throw your hands in the air with futility, exhausted? It's not healthy. For the person, the department or the business.

Working in an environment where individuality and creativity are shut down leads straight to Post-Traumatic Job Disorder, or PTJD.

Once we learn something we can't unlearn it. This applies to the good, the bad and the trauma. A work trauma can take many forms:

Your boss steals your ideas and presents as her own; gets kudos for them.
The CEO yells and paces with rage over something you consider insignificant.
Every time you present an idea, you get shut down.
Someone throws you under the bus and no one advocates for you.
You're clinging onto your job as you see wave after wave of layoffs.
You get laid off.
The department head just doesn't like you and tries to humiliate you.
You work for Jekyl and Hyde.
What would you add here? The list is personal and lengthy.

PTJD leads back to one source: trust betrayed. Even though we don't say to our new boss, "Hey, I'm trusting you to be respectful towards me," we still feel betrayed when she isn't.

We walk in innocent. We anticipate our boss and colleagues will want to collaborate, partner, and help each other. I have never met someone who walks into a job looking forward to being treated like poop. It doesn't matter how many years we work, we almost always enter a new work relationship with hope. We hope for a trusting, open environment where we will feel valued, seen and understood.

Let me be clear here: Hope is a gift. It's a miracle of humankind to be ever hopeful. It would be horrible if we gave up hope. I shudder to think what life would be like if we stopped dating, trying new foods, reading new books. The same applies to work. We keep trying to find a company where our Self is appreciated, where we can contribute our highest level of contribution to the greater good.

So what to do when we're smacked down? Get out. As soon as you can. Or, if you're able, reach out to your HR partner and get transferred or have your boss held accountable. I've seen it happen! Bottom line: Do everything you can to avoid PTJD. It's much harder to undo trauma if you've been traumatized repeatedly over a period of time. The sooner you remove yourself from the traumatic situation, the quicker it is to heal.

In coaching so many people with PTJD, I see how damaging it can be to one's sense of self worth. Trauma can strip away a sense of your own talents and gifts; your strengths become distorted into perceived weaknesses. I've seen so many talented and skilled people consider themselves un-hireable because of what a previous (or current) boss was saying to them. It's heart breaking at first, and then terribly exciting to see the realization cross their faces like the sun rising.

People who inflict trauma on others can sense innocence and hope. They're like tigers prowling prey. It's up to us to develop our own radar and prevent these attacks from reaching our soul. We can't prevent the attacks, but we can prevent them from affecting us deeply. And then we can be grateful for the attack (sort of) for leading us to take action to protect ourselves, and possibly those around us as well.

We each have gifts to share. The goal is to find the work environment where our gifts are welcome. Never give up.

(Image by Kaushal Karkhanis)