As a Modern Workplace consultant with an emphasis in Microsoft 365, I deliver solutions architected in SharePoint Online with Teams and Power Platform. I could call myself a developer, an architect, a consultant, a data specialist etc. but I prefer to refer to myself as a therapist. It started out jokingly, but now that I’ve been an IT Professional for over 10 years, I’m more convinced than ever that I chose the right title.
Here’s the part where I must point out that I am not actually a licensed therapist (though I do have a MS-700 cert, not to brag) and I am in no way making light of therapy, trauma, or emotional and mental health, but rather the opposite. I want to normalize and destigmatize the idea that we ALL have trauma, and we ALL can benefit from talking about it.
One of the biggest misconceptions about trauma is you must have suffered from a catastrophic event or injury to have trauma, and that’s just not true. Trauma is an ongoing reaction to a distressing or disturbing incident or series of events, and there are different levels and types of it. The three main types of trauma are:
- Acute trauma which results from a single incident.
- Chronic trauma that is repeated and prolonged.
- Complex trauma including varied and multiple traumatic events.
EVERYONE has experienced trauma, so let’s talk about a sneaky source of it: Technology.
Technology Driven Trauma
Sometimes workplace trauma is an extension of a toxic work environment and I’m not qualified to unpack that, but what about when the trauma is caused by technology? That’s the trauma I want to address and avoid. There are obvious examples of technological trauma, such as cyber bullying, account theft, compromised credentials, data breaches or loss, malware and viruses, ransomware, identity theft… The list goes on. As individuals, we might encounter these things in our personal lives but they are also threats in our professional lives, and the effects can be lasting for workers and for companies.
I work with a lot of clients that have already experienced a technology driven trauma. They’ve had the acute trauma of a server failure and lost records, or the chronic trauma of employees compromising sensitive data through ineffective DLP and IP policies. Most often though, we see the complex trauma that comes from the combination of big and little experiences that leave us feeling wary and distrustful.
The Four Rs of Trauma
This is where I come in. There’s a concept in the treatment of trauma called The Four Rs, and what I’ve come to realize in my years of deployment planning and solution architecture, is this is what I do when I work with a client. Here are the Four Rs, and my Modern Workplace take on them.
- Realization about trauma, and how it can affect people and groups
- Recognizing the signs of trauma
- Responding to the trauma
- Resisting re-traumatization
The first thing I do with any client is discovery. I meet with individuals, departments, pilot teams etc. and I ask them to tell me about their current set-up. What works, what doesn’t? Do you have a hard time finding content? Have you ever lost documents? What happens when someone new comes to your company and you give them the tour? What happens when someone leaves, whether they give notice or not? I start by asking broad questions and just opening a dialogue about the way things are, not the way we want them to be.
After I have identified the pain points, I’ll start asking the client more probing questions that elicit more in depth understanding that what a client has experienced isn’t just a frustrating happening, but it might have been a trauma. This is when you can see lightbulbs go off where people recognize all the little annoyances they’ve always just dealt with because “that’s just how the system is.” This is also where the clients start to realize that I don’t just want to hear the canned response of how they work, but I want to know exactly what’s broken and how broken it is. I want to hear about how frustrating it is to route a document for approval, or how clicking through 8 layers of folders is impossible, because that’s when you start to recognize that it doesn’t have to stay like this, and you can start to heal.
After discovery and the follow-on analysis, I architect a solution that is designed to respond to the trauma specifically identified by THIS client. I want to respond to THEIR trauma. Some aspects of an architected solution are universal, but the real magic comes in when you can create a SharePoint environment that eliminates existing pain points without creating new ones. Otherwise, you run the risk of polluting your new environment with the same old problems, and that leads to the fourth R.
I’m a huge fan of Gordon Ramsey, and I LOVE a good dramatic episode of Kitchen Nightmares, so I’m going to use that model as an example here. We’ve all seen an episode where Gordon came in and went through the first 3 Rs and then left and the restaurant just went right back to doing it the old way. They brought back the ridiculous menu items, or they couldn’t stay away from a problematic employee or whatever it is, but inevitably they end up right back where they were because they did not resist the re-traumatization. My role is to provide enough mentoring and on-going support for a client to help them continue to prevent their shiny new Microsoft 365 solution from turning right back into the old and busted intranet.
The good news is every client is different just like every person is different. Some organizations are resilient, and they are good at recognizing and responding to trauma and growing out of it. Some organizations have a harder time with that, and that’s okay too. Technology is like a voracious plant, always growing and always spreading, and some people are better gardeners than others. The good news for you is there are people like me and my team at Pait like to dig in and help. So, let’s talk about it.