Awareness@Work Series February 19, 2020

Caring for Impacted Individuals Rather Than Simply Handling a Situation

Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, PhD.

The most noticeable change has been the true and sincere shift to an emphasis on the specific care for the impacted individual(s) rather than the processof simply handling a situation.

-Patrick Laverty, Sr. Manager, Family Assistance & Crisis Team Training Global Crisis Management, The Walt Disney Company


    The intention of the Foundations new series Awareness@Work is to shed light on how leaders within business organizations today are responding to those impacted by a crisis in the workplace. Whether one person, (customer, employee, family member) or a group of people are experiencing trauma, many organizations are initiating change in how they respond.

    Awareness of how the needs of distressed people can be met within the context of the workplace has risen dramatically with the evolution of Care and Special Assistance Teams throughout the world. Once cautioned against approaching a distressed survivor due to concerns over liability, many companies today encourage employees to contact them without fear, expressing sorrow and thereby showing true compassion toward the impacted individual.

    This new series features comments by program leaders as to the changes they are experiencing and challenges for the future of their programs. Patrick Laverty, of The Walt Disney Company responded to questions about the trend of awareness within his organization. 


CVC: In your career at Disney, what changes have you noticed in how people are responded to when trauma or any suffering takes place?

PL: The most noticeable change has been the true and sincere shift to an emphasis on the specific care for the impacted individual(s) rather than the processof simply handling a situation. Our organization has always wanted to do what is right and acted empathetically, but the growth in knowledge of how to truly help in these situations has been such a refreshing transformation to be a part of. Since our partnership with Aviem/FAF began in 2012, there has been tremendous positive growth in the culture of compassion throughout the organization, allowing us to move from what the corporate industry might view as an appropriate response to trauma, to consistently delivering on what the right and empathetic way to respond is.


CVC: To what do you attribute any positive changes?

PL: I would say the greater awareness and understanding of appropriate responses that come from training and the continuous learning from survivors and industry partners. How you might handle a customer satisfaction issue with good guest service, is not always the best approach when handling these sensitive situations. Part of this education has come from witnessing the emphasis of empathy and compassion from the top down. Our senior leadership shows sincere compassion in both their business interactions and situations involving an individuals trauma. We know that in each situation, if we act with the best interest of our impacted persons as the priority, that we will be supported in our decision making.


CVC: Where do you see the greatest challenges going forward as folks like us try to help companies respond from compassion instead of fear of lawsuits and or questions about increasing liability by employee response?

PL: There will always be barriers of untrained individuals that consciously or unconsciously hold onto outdated beliefs on corporate standards, but I think the greater challenge and risk, is complacency. If we do not strive for continuous learning and bettering of ourselves and our programs, we risk falling flat and creating those unintentional second assaults. We must always treat every situation and individual as such; an individual with unique needs and concerns. When we think we knowhow to respond, that is where we can really miss the mark.  The most effective way to build a culture of compassion is to always strive for better always listen and learn from others, particularly our survivors, and remember to always put the people first.


Consciousness in the Workplace

Consciousness is like that. When we learn to cultivate our capacity for being aware, the quality of our life and the strength of our mind are enhanced.

-Daniel J. Siegel. M.D from Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence

    Over many years, survivors of workplace tragedies have banned together to raise awareness of issues they believed could be improved with proper attention from company leaders. While few business organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, must adhere to rigid legal guidelines for a post-trauma response, improvements in response to survivors, continue to evolve on a global basis.

    Dr. Siegel’s quote about individual awareness is applicable to business organizations. As a company increases their compassionate response to those in their care—the quality of the lives and strength of individuals leading the programs cannot help but be improved.

    At the Foundation, we look forward to sharing additional insight into how increased awareness of the power of company employees is making a difference in lives of those impacted when crisis strikes the workplace.

© 2020 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.

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