Personal trauma as a formative development experience

29 11 2010

Many people suffer personal trauma in their lives, such as critical illness, bereavement or disability. These experiences may be personally life-changing, and as a result, they may fundamentally impact the way people view and approach work. However, if these experiences are not openly discussed at work, their developmental value both for the individual and their organisation is potentially missed. Consequently, this doctoral research project sits at the intersection between an individual’s personal and professional life and aims to improve our understanding of the impact of personal trauma on the way individuals think and behave at work. As importantly, this research also seeks to understand the role of the organisation in supporting or hindering individuals post-trauma in order to better understand the characteristics of compassionate workplaces.

This is an interdisciplinary research project which brings together scholarly work from the fields of positive psychology, narrative research and positive organisational behaviour and examines them through a management lens. Personal narratives are being gathered from a number of past Ashridge participants who have experienced personal trauma about how their experience may have impacted the way they view themselves and their work. These personal narratives are being enriched by accounts from  ‘workplace witnesses’, that is to say, work-based individuals nominated by the participant, such as colleagues, subordinates or line managers, who can talk from a third party perspective about any changes they may have seen in the individual concerned at work post-trauma.

The outcomes of this research have the potential to impact leaders and HR professionals who are interested in fostering compassionate and positive workplaces. Equally, leaders and HR professionals who are concerned with the potential connections between levels of support for individuals post-trauma and their subsequent development and engagement at work.

To find out more about this doctoral research, contact Amy Armstrong amy.armstrong@ashridge.org.uk

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