Critical Incident Stress Management

Within the First 24 – 48 Hours

  • Periods of physical activity (based on your physical condition and physical limitation), alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reaction.
  • Structure you time – keep busy
  • You’re normal and having normal reaction – don’t label yourself crazy.
  • Talk to people – talk is the most healing medicine.
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol, you don’t need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out – people do care.
  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feeling with others.
  • Keep a journal; write your way through the sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • Realize those around you are under stress.
  • Don’t make any big life changes.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible which will give you a feeling of control over your life, if someone asks you what to eat – answer them even if you’re not sure.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Reoccurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal – do not try to fight them – the will decrease over time and become less painful.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even if you don’t feel like it).

Here are some very common signs and signals of a stress reaction:






Muscle tremors


Chest pain*

Difficulty breathing*

Elevated BP



Visual difficulties

Grinding of teeth



Profuse sweating


Shock symptoms*

















Severe panic (rare)

Emotional shock



Loss of emotional control/depression

Inappropriate emotional response



Feeling overwhelmed

Intense anger






Confusion, disorientation

Poor attitude

Poor decision making

Heightened or lowered alertness

Poor concentration memory

Problems hyper vigilance

Difficulty identifying familiar objects or people

Rapid heart rate

Increased or decreases awareness surroundings

Poor problem solving

Poor abstract thinking

Loss of time, place or person, orientation

Disturbed thinking, nightmares, intrusive images




Anger at God, Allah, higher power

Loss of religious or spiritual faith

Questioning ability to forgive/be forgiven

Change in sense of self




Change in society

Change in speech patterns

Loss or increase of appetite


Emotional outbursts


Change in usual communication skills


Startle reflex

Hyper alert to environment

Alcohol consumption

Inability to rest

Antisocial acts

Nonspecific bodily complaints

Erratic movements

Change in sexual functioning



*definite indication of the need for medical evaluation


Supervisors Can Help Ease Employees’ Grief

Mourning doesn’t have to be an awkward topic.

Remember, when someone feels a loss of a close family member, everyone responds in a different manner, but there are basic things we can offer each other that are generally comforting.

Supervisors and coworkers can help in many ways.  They should be patient when someone is forgetful and kind if they cry.  Going home early or getting time off to be with family is helpful but some would rather be at work and normalize as quickly as possible.  Be sensitive to what the individual is going through but also allow them continue at their job and bring them back to full throttle.

Unfortunately, dealing with grieving employees remains among the most avoided workplace topics.  If you’ve ever found yourself turning down a hall and going the other way to dodge someone who’s grieving, you’re not alone.

Costly Blunders

Why do we have so much trouble comforting colleagues who’ve suffered a loss?

One reason is we’re afraid of death, and when it touches a colleague, it’s a reminder of our own mortality.  Because death is such a taboo subject, we aren’t sure what to say when we’re faced with a grieving person.  Coworkers who’ll freely discuss intimate relationships become tongue-tied for fear of saying the wrong thing.

So they do nothing.  And, sadly, this is the worst choice, because it sends a message that they don’t care.

Imagine how you’d feel if your parent died, and nobody at the office where you’ve worked for years said anything about the loss.

Blunders such as these are costly, personally and professionally.  It’s particularly important that supervisors are knowledgeable about the grief process and show sensitivity and compassion for the bereaved.  Most workers feel that bosses, rather than a company policy, set the tone for a workplace response to grief.

Here are some key points for supervisors:

Communicate.  Notifying staff is critical.  Managers who learn about a death in a coworker’s family should ask permission to notify colleagues and of any information the family wishes to disclose (passing along the importance of resisting the urge to probe for details).  You may want to designate a person to disseminate information about memorial services.

Why should you avoid leaving notification to the grapevine?  Picture this lunchroom scene that was recently described to me: A person tells a colleague who’s been off on maternity leave, “So show us the baby pictures” – only to learn that there are none, the newborn died.

Acknowledge the loss.  It’s important to personally acknowledge the death has occurred.  This can be a simple “I’m sorry,” a handwritten note on a desk or flowers.  It shows you care about your colleague as a person.  Also, permit coworkers to attend the funeral, organize whatever company support is available and arrange for flowers of other appropriate acknowledgement from the office as a whole.  These gestures are never forgotten.

Open Enrollment

Don’t forget, open enrollment is this month!!  Open enrollment for 2017 is  November 1-15, 2016.  For more information please visit, .

Enroll for spring-term dependent tuition assistance

Ohio State offers eligible employees and dependents the opportunity to advance their education at the university. For dependent tuition assistance, applications must be submitted each term. The enrollment window for spring semester 2017 opens Monday (11/14), and faculty and staff can apply online or with paper applications. The student must have a social security number on file with the University Bursar to receive dependent tuition assistance.

Contact or 614-292-1050


Being the Bearer of Bad News

Help the employee prepare to receive the bad news, try starting the conversation with a caveat acknowledging the conversation may be awkward.  This will give the employee a warning that something is up.  This helps demonstrate you care enough to show the person something is coming.  You could also use warning phrases such as, “There no easy way to say this…”; “You’re not going to like what’s coming…”; “I don’t know how you’re going to react to this…”

Give the employee time to grieve.  Usually when delivering bad news the employee is experiencing a loss, whether the employee is losing his/her job or being denied a request that was made.  Show empathy to the employee in the situation, maybe say something like, “Go ahead and take a moment.”

Think about how you would deliver the same news to a friend and use that as a guide for handing the conversation with an employee.

HR Magazine September 2016, “Bad News Bear”, Christina Folz