What exactly is a disruptive event?

Posted by Jeff Gorter on September 13, 2017

Each month R3 Continuum responds to over 1200 disruptive events in the workplace, an impressive yet sobering number.  However, that statement begs the question, “What exactly is a disruptive event?” That can be deceptive, as some events may qualify as a crisis for certain groups, while others might not be distressed at all by the incident. For example, if I saw a burning house I would undoubtedly be anxious and perhaps even frightened. That same scene for a trained firefighter, however, may be more likely to elicit focus, determination, and action.  Disruption, it would seem, is like beauty; it is in the eye of the beholder.

I think Webster’s Dictionary offers some direction in their definition of the word disruption, which states: “To break apart, to throw into disorder, or to interrupt the normal course or unity of.” Here we catch a glimpse of the impact that a disruptive event can have on a workgroup, and how it can trigger powerful reactions at both the emotional and operational levels. Any powerful event – whether it is a robbery, an accident, a downsizing or an unexpected employee death – has the potential to throw the group off balance emotionally, to challenge group morale and cohesion, and can negatively impact productivity. These reactions and more place tremendous stress on the individual employee and the organization as a whole, both of which rely on the other for stability and to function properly.

At R3 Continuum, our goal is to provide disruptive event management (DEM) services with that focus in mind – supporting both the employee and the employer, the worker and the business in which they work. Research shows that people recover from crisis events quicker and better when they feel connected to others, instead of going through it alone. In a workplace setting, that obviously means tapping into and enhancing the natural strengths of the workgroup. Similarly, the restoration of operations and productivity for a business depends on the functioning of the workers –  the business is only as strong as each worker. By attending to both sides of the equation, DEM services help facilitate the natural resilience present at each level and fosters a swift return to a new normal – a “win/win” for both.

About the Author: Jeff Gorter, LMSW, brings over 28 years of clinical experience including consultation and extensive on-site critical incident response to businesses and communities. He has responded directly to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and the Newtown tragedy. He has conducted trainings and presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Conference, the World Conference on Disaster Management, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Annual Meeting, Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) Annual World Conference, and at other state and national venues on a variety of topics. Mr Gorter currently serves as R3’s Clinical Director, EAP Relations. He also currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Western Michigan University in the MSW Graduate Programs.