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Creating Safe Spaces: A Deep Dive with Dr. Lee Cordell on Trauma-Informed Workplaces



In today's fast-paced work environment, the psychological safety of employees is often sidelined, leading to decreased productivity and satisfaction. However, leaders like Dr. Lee Cordell, CEO of the Institute for Trauma and Psychological Safety, are spearheading the movement towards trauma-informed workplaces that promise not just productivity but profound well-being for both employees and customers. I had the pleasure of discussing this critical topic with Dr. Cordell, and here’s what we explored. This article discusses with Dr. Lee Cordell on Trauma-Informed Workplaces.

Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Workplaces

Dr. Cordell began by shedding light on a fundamental question: What is trauma, and why should organizational leaders care about it? “Trauma,” she explained, “is an emotional response to a terrible event. But it’s not just about those big, life-altering events; it’s also about the smaller, continuous stressors that accumulate over time and affect our ability to function and feel safe in our work environments.”

This understanding is crucial for leaders because, as Dr. Cordell highlighted, the aftershocks of trauma can ripple through an organization, affecting everything from employee relations to customer satisfaction. A trauma-sensitive organization recognizes these challenges and strives to create an environment where every member feels understood and supported.

The Pillars of a Trauma-Informed Workplace

Our conversation then turned towards the practicalities of fostering a trauma-informed workplace. Dr. Cordell emphasized three main pillars: awareness, sensitivity, and safety. "It starts with education," she noted. "Leaders need to be aware of the signs of trauma, which can be as subtle as decreased engagement or as overt as conflict aversion."

Sensitivity involves understanding the personal boundaries and emotional responses of team members. This means creating policies that acknowledge these needs without stigma or penalty. Finally, safety—both physical and psychological—is paramount. "An environment where employees feel safe is one where they can thrive and innovate," Dr. Cordell added.

Actionable Strategies for Leaders

Dr. Cordell is passionate about equipping leaders with actionable strategies to implement these principles. She shared several approaches during our talk:

  • Develop Emotional Intelligence: Quick, effective methods like her 10 Second Protocol help leaders manage their reactions and support their teams in moments of stress.

  • Say No to Overload: By learning when and how to say no, leaders can prevent burnout and foster a culture of respect for personal limits.

  • Invest in People, Not Just Programs: While wellness programs are beneficial, investing directly in individual employee growth and recovery processes can yield more significant, lasting benefits.

Economic Benefits of Trauma-Informed Practices

One of the most compelling parts of our discussion was the link between trauma-informed practices and financial success. Dr. Cordell explained that organizations that adopt these practices often see improved employee retention and satisfaction, which directly correlates with customer satisfaction and financial performance. "When your employees are not constantly in a state of stress, they are more productive, creative, and loyal," she remarked.

Dr. Lee Cordell on Trauma-Informed Workplaces

As we wrapped up our conversation, it was clear that Dr. Lee Cordell’s work is not just about addressing trauma but about creating an environment where everyone can flourish. Her insights remind us that at the heart of every successful organization are the people who feel valued, respected, and safe.

This transformative approach is not just about healing; it's about leading in a way that brings out the best in everyone, forging paths toward not just organizational success, but also toward a more compassionate and empathetic society.

For leaders looking to make substantial changes in their organizations, Dr. Cordell's strategies offer a roadmap to a more engaged and resilient workforce. As more organizations begin to understand the impact of trauma on their operations, the principles of trauma-informed practices are likely to become standard components of organizational health, setting a new standard for leadership across industries.

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