Case Study 2: An established, high performing team in trouble

“The fantastically detailed report and clear recommendations have given us

control of how to protect our staff” – Department Head.

N.B: Many of our clients require confidentiality to ensure security or protect brand reputation. We therefore don’t add any identifying features.

Team Info

A small team of highly-skilled, professionals with a strong global reputation working for a world-renowned, global, media organisation. Graphic, multi-sensory, typically unedited and/or user-generated material was viewed every day. This was often highly extreme with little or no warning of what they were about to witness. The team had been affected by substantial, organisation-wide cuts and change, and were under pressure to generate income within an increasingly competitive market.

The Department’s Motives

• To protect the team against the potential negative psychological effects of extreme exposure.
• To ensure the organisation fulfilled its duty of care.

What We Did

Detailed, individual interviews with team members, two levels of management and the UK Health Lead using our ‘VT/PTSD Culture, Strategy and Procedure Review’ and ‘Cultural Psychological Wellbeing Assessment’.

What We Found

A detailed understanding of how the team’s experience of exposure and support, psychological wellbeing, health and performance was affected by decisions and actions taken throughout the organisation, as well as at team and department level.

• All (but one new member of staff) had experienced VT/PTSD-related signs and symptoms and were unsure or worried about the long-term consequences of exposure. One described current PTSD-related symptoms with sustained, life-influencing effect.
• All relied solely on each other and their immediate line manager for exposure-related support. None could discuss their exposure with family and friends, whilst the organisation’s Employee Assistance Programme was seen as inappropriate and inadequate for their needs.
• Scant training and no formal exposure monitoring, protection or support was available, whilst serious recruitment and induction concerns were found.
• The daily pressure to cope with increasing work demands and reduced resources lowered their personal resources and reduced the ability to limit exposure and gain respite.
• Higher management had not appreciated the severity, frequency and risk of exposure, nor its escalation in recent years.

Outcomes and Moving Forward

A detailed report gave context-specific understanding of the current, exposure risk and mitigative practices in line with industry-good practice. Recommendations were given to address concerns and to reinforce and improve upon good practice. Each was given severity and urgency to enable managers to take control and decide upon appropriate action.

84 recommendations were given ranging across the organisation’s culture, procedure and systems to everyday team practice.
• 38% aimed to enable the organisation to fulfil its ‘VT/PTSD exposure’ duty of care. The majority mitigated exposure-related risk and improved training and support, whilst others related to introducing trauma-informed recruitment and induction practice and promoting role-related physical safety.
• 62% aimed to promote the team’s coping resources, psychological wellbeing and performance. Most were designed to directly improve performance, a third to ensure basic health and safety requirements were met, whilst the remainder promoted positive, personal wellbeing,

A meeting was held with three levels of management, HR and the UK Health Lead to provide situation clarity. Recommendations were discussed in relation to urgency, how best to achieve them, and management responsibility. As a consequence, the organisation made changes at team, department and HR level to better safeguard the team. Further, VT/PTSD-specific support was introduced to provide effective training and support.

What They Said …

Team Member“It’s been so good to talk openly about what we do and how it affects us. What we do is so important and we want to do our best, but it’s tough; what we currently achieve is not sustainable. Do senior management care? Do they know what we face every day? Doing this with you, is a sign that they do care after all.”

Line Manager“I knew the team needed more support. I was really worried about them, but I needed help from higher up too. This has made it really clear to everyone what has to happen and why. I’m so relieved with the changes being made. Not many would want to do what they do; we need to look after them.”