LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a “psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.” With all due respect to those who have suffered much more, I think hard-working professionals can also experience traumatic events in the workplace. This could include an interaction with a co-worker, 16-hour days while traveling away from home, or intense responsibility for the financial success of an entire organization.
Even football players, known for living out childhood dreams while making millions of dollars, experience traumatic experiences. Here’s what we heard from two professional players:
“I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. …When I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would never go down that path again.” ~ Andrew Luck, Former NFL Quarterback (8/2019)
“I had countless injuries and nine surgeries, which took an absolute beating on my body and my soul. I was hurt both mentally and physically day in and day out. I decided to walk away from the game.”~ Rob Gronkowski, Former NFL Tight End (8/2019)
Let’s unravel four misconceptions that set leaders up for traumatic experiences:
- Suffering ≠ Work Ethic: Though circumstances differ, dedication in the workplace should not equate to a constant and intense regiment of “soul and pain management.” Escapism, seeking distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, only masks the issue and causes problems of its own. A good work ethic is necessary, but suffering doesn’t improve the outcome.
- Pride ≠ Identity: Pride is the belief that we should be able to handle extreme work environments and expectations (which we, ourselves, often define). Yes, we are smart enough, strong enough, and dedicated enough to handle challenging situations, but that doesn’t define our identity or make us more worthy.
- Greed ≠ Career Strategy: “Golden Handcuffs” are highly prized compensation packages or benefits designed to retain employees. It is very tempting to feel stuck in a role or organization and yet we know money isn’t everything. Eventually, we must evaluate the advantages and liabilities of the situation and create a personal strategy.
- Survival Mode ≠ Forever Mode: There are seasons of difficulty in every career, short periods of time when phrases like: “Suck it up, Buttercup!” and “If you’re not crying, you’re not working,” are actually inspiring. However, there are also times when we must formally define the root cause of harmful patterns, determine what will be different, and commit to an alternate path.
Though football fans were shocked by Luck’s retirement, I wager it did not surprise those close to him during his four-year “injury-pain rehab cycle.” It takes a lot of courage to make a change that is both unexpected and financially or logistically impactful. It also takes a lot of reflection and planning to break down old survival patterns and create new habits for freedom. Setting boundaries and trusting yourself to stay within those boundaries becomes the next challenge. But, remember, we are smart enough, strong enough, and dedicated enough!
Please seek support if you or someone you know may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
— Join a Synergy Group where we will discuss what the
Bible says about Survival Mode. —
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting all Christians, everywhere, for the purpose of Community, Accountability, Transformation, and Leadership. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 23 years.