Helping teams overcome the trauma of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created individual, team, organisational, and work-life stressors. In the face of these pressures, teamwork has become both more important and more challenging. So how do we collectively brave a changing work environment? One strategy for enabling teams to grow from this trauma comes out of encouraging storytelling in the workplace for post-traumatic growth.

Teamwork in the office

Storytelling for post-traumatic growth in teams

Positive change following adversity

As teams emerge from the pandemic with its myriad of impacts, perhaps surprisingly there can be benefits waiting to be realised. Every team member will have a story to tell about their experiences and the lessons learnt. Sharing these experiences with colleagues could potentially improve team cohesiveness and increase feelings of psychological safety – factors we know are critical for team performance and wellbeing.

Emerging, reforming, and recalibration for teams may not be easy as they search for their ‘new normal’ and their own version of ‘hybrid’ working. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has an article titled ‘An exercise to help your team overcome the trauma of the pandemic’ that lays out a practical exercise teams, and potentially team coaches can deploy to facilitate the process of storytelling effectively to achieve this. The exercise is designed to turn ‘pain into power’.

The HBR article suggests that the surest and fastest way to return to productive, high performance work post-COVID is through storytelling and story-listening designed to activate PTG.

What is post-traumatic growth?

Many who experience trauma not only show incredible resilience but actually thrive in the aftermath of the traumatic event. The majority of trauma survivors do not develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a large number even report growth from their experience. This transformation following trauma is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG). It has been defined as ‘the transformative positive change that can occur as a result of struggle with great adversity’. PTG isn’t the opposite of PTSD; it’s the positive experience that can result from overcoming adversity.

Post-traumatic growth in team sport

The Tour de France 2021 saw the resurgence of British rider Mark Cavendish who for several years had injuries, illness and suffered depression. Written off by many and considered yesterday’s man, Cavendish was given a chance to ride this year. With less than a week’s notice before the Tour began he was called to join his team. Against all odds he miraculously ‘turned back the clock’. He won further race stages after his last win 9 years ago. This put him on the first spot of the races all-time list together with Eddy Merckx, the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling.  The Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, said “His comeback is just amazing.”

Mark Cavendish has since talked about the belief he maintained and the support of his team, and how this fuelled his return. He overcame great adversity to reach top of the cycling world again after 3 years away from the Tour. This stress-related growth is often seen in athletes and para-athletes. There have been many studies into the phenomenon.

Teamwork - cyclist image

Steve Wallace
Team coach, teamGenie®

Steve is a certified team coach with three decades experience in law enforcement – including 20 years as a police leader. He held many senior policing roles, including head of leadership development for the Metropolitan Police Service delivering the award winning ‘Leading For London’ initiative – which involved coaching and workshops for all 11,000 managers.

Steve Wallace.

Putting insights into action:

  1. What have you learned about team working during C-19?
  2. What is your two-word narrative to apply this learning about Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?

If you’d like to find out more about the work teamGenie® do with teams to improve team cohesiveness, psychological safety, and wellbeing please get in touch and let’s chat.

If you’d like to join one of our upcoming webinars on team wellness please contact us for details.

Who are the people working their magic?
Meet the teamGenie® team