Dissociation is a way the mind copes with stress – and it is a way more common problem than most employers think, with up with to 75% of people experiencing a dissociative episode at some point.
In fact, even if you have never heard of dissociation, you will almost certainly have seen its impact on colleagues, and maybe even experienced it yourself!
There are a number of ways dissociation can manifest itself, and all of them have a negative impact on an individual’s performance and productivity:
- Depersonalisation – the feeling of being outside yourself, watching actions, thoughts, and feelings from a distance.
- Derealisation – the people and things around you may seem "lifeless" or "foggy".
- Amnesia – not being able to remember information, past events, or even a learned talent or skill.
The stress and trauma caused by the pandemic triggered an increase in the levels of dissociation across the population creating a mental health legacy which is now being felt in the workplace. And the problem with this is that many misinterpret a dip in productivity as someone doing less – when they may actually need support.
So how can employers prevent dissociative episodes from impacting productivity?
The best place to start is awareness. By educating leaders and line-managers about dissociation and how to recognise it in themselves and their direct reports, you can begin to understand the issue and how it might be affecting your organization.
You can also share some simple methods for coping with dissociative episodes, for example, breathing exercises, stimulation toys, or music. There are many different grounding methods for bringing someone out of an episode and back into reality, but what works for each individual will be unique to them.
Having these conversations openly will help those who may not know how to cope with their dissociative symptoms, as well as contribute to eradicating the wider stigma around mental health. It will see productivity and engagement levels rise again, all the while strengthening the relationships between leaders and their teams.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020