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Research: Trauma-Informed Organizations

Change Package: Trust


Balancing consistency and flexibility

Consistency is important to maintain standards across consumers and providers, as well as provide a sense of safety in knowing the expectations and consequences; however, consistency must be balanced with flexibility to recognize and treat individuals and their needs in ways that work best for them.
Acknowledge the goals of each party, and in a manner that exercise control and flexibility, work to determine how actions can satisfy the self-interests of each party. Flexibility evolves from hiring a flexible workforce, inclusive decision-making, and developing processes that promote agility and respects individuality.

Maintaining privacy and confidentiality

Organizations should support consumers and staff in achieving both privacy and confidentiality. Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to determine what information to share with whom at what time, and the confidence to selectively express one’s self. Confidentiality involves a set of rules or a promise that limits access or places restrictions on certain types of information.

Respecting healthy boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Recognizing the need to set and enforce limits helps protect self-esteem, maintain self-respect, and sustain healthier relationships.

Staff Experience

  • Create a written policy that protects staff from reprisal if they report behaviors or incidences that could be considered emotionally/psychologically unsafe or misaligned with TI principles.
  • Develop policies and procedures that create flexibility within workflows and schedules.
  • Develop policies and procedures that create healthy boundaries for staff and allow staff to create their own boundaries (e.g., leaving phones and computers at work, policies for email on phones, etc.).

  • Staff should be given opportunities to provide feedback privately (for safety) and within a larger group (for accountability). Record all feedback and share widely with staff. This offers accountability for decisionmakers and communicates that staff opinions are valued, even if the feedback will not be implemented.

  • Regularly train staff on how to process conflicts and losses through a trauma lens.
  • Ensure discussions about boundaries and flexibility are included in self-care trainings.

  • Coach supervisors on how to solicit and respond to staff opinions or perspectives before decisions are made.
  • Coach supervisors on how to support flexibility and healthy boundaries.
  • Model healthy boundaries and respect for others drawing boundaries.

  • Model healthy boundaries and respect for others drawing boundaries.

Consumer Experience

  • Develop a written policy outlining ethical issues/conflicts of interest and ways to address and resolve these concerns.
  • Develop a written policy outlining boundaries between staff and consumers, including contact outside of work activities, self-disclosure, sharing resources, physical contact, and how to address potential breaches.

  • Send regular reminders to staff that when they have concerns or questions about comments or decisions made by executive leadership or supervisors, they should not experience retribution or negative consequences; also provide the process for how to safely report experiences to the contrary.
  • Send regular reminders to staff to discourage discussing the personal issues of one consumer with other staff and consumers.

  • Create private and confidential spaces for assessments or personal conversations with consumers.
  • Assign a staff position to support the organization in guiding staff across all shifts and roles to be consistent when sharing information to consumers.
  • Build offices that have doors that close, offering private and confidential spaces.

  • Coach staff on how to respond when they hear other staff talk about consumers in private or common spaces, or in condescending and disrespectful ways.

  • Coach leadership and supervisors to value and sincerely thank staff for feedback and comments, especially when they question or challenge what the person in power/authority has shared.
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