We support women and girls in war and crisis zones

Stress and trauma dynamics among staff members

Reactions to working in contexts of violence, including divisive tendencies within teams at work

Staff at organisations that operate in contexts of violence are often subjected to high levels of stress: both from their direct contact to those affected and from the indirect contact such as reading and listening to accounts of violent acts. Furthermore, in post-conflict regions, many members of staff have their own experiences of violence. Quite often, those working in the field of women’s rights are also subjected to threats or insults because they assume a public and political position against violence.

Symptoms of stress and trauma can be transferred

Symptoms of stress and trauma can then be transferred within an organisation. One of the reasons for this lies in our brain’s ‘mirror neurons’, which lead to us developing a similar emotional state to someone we are interacting with.

In organisations whose staff are frequently subjected to stress or even traumatic stress, this means very stressful dynamics can arise. For example:

  • Minor problems or conflicts appear to be existential.
  • Divisive behaviour and mutual blaming takes place within teams.
  • Colleagues stop working together.
  • Staff behave less sensitively and empathically towards each other.

The Kurdish women’s rights organisation EMMA, in close cooperation with medica mondiale, developed and published a concept for self-care and employee care in war and crisis areas. Their aim is to help their own and other organisations work together constructively in the long term, allowing their work to be continued without losing strength. You can find practical tips from medica mondiale and EMMA on the development of your own staff care concept here.

Updated: 01/2024