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Keeping it together when the team leader takes off

THE departure of a senior member of a business or sporting team can have a profound effect on those who remain.

The sensational circumstances of Wayne Carey’s resignation from the Kangaroos Football Club last week have raised concerns about the emotional impact such an event will have on what was until now a close group of players.

These players form a team that works together to achieve a common goal and, in light of the events of the past week, crisis and trauma management is an issue that must be managed carefully.

An event that creates high levels of emotional energy in the workplace, whether behind the scenes or in the public eye, needs to be addressed immediately, according to Perth counsellors Geoff Paull and Charmaine Saunders.

Dr Paull completed his PhD in sport and exercise science from Arizona State University and is the principal consultant of management performance and enhancement firm Pathways to Achievement.

He said that, in a situation like the one at the Kangaroos, organisations need to acknowledge the problem.

“North Melbourne needs to keep the treasures and the memories, but at the same time move forward,” Dr Paull said,

“You must learn from your history and not become a victim of it. Firstly, don’t pretend it never happened.”

He said that, in a situation involving the loss of a key team member, management must consolidate the remaining group.

“Solidarity is the key to group efficacy,” Dr Paull said.

Counsellor and author Dr Charmaine Saunders said if a company had a proactive approach to stress and trauma management, the effects of such events were minimised.

“If an unforeseeable event happens you’ve got a system in place to deal with that,” she said.

Dr Saunders said crisis events needed to be addressed immediately.

“A good example is the trauma caused through a bank robbery or a situation where someone has committed suicide or has an emotional crisis,” she said.

“If problems are not addressed people get on with the job and will not necessarily have gotten over the event.

“Post-trauma symptoms often go on unnoticeable and can turn up years later. People can take the workplace home and not know about it.”

Dr Saunders said visible symptoms were the loss of efficiency, absenteeism, disorientation or crankiness, and less comradery.

Dr Paull agreed that counsellors needed to be brought in immediately and said it was necessary to understand the problems occurring among individual members and to ensure management handled the situation effectively, particularly if the issue had a high profile.

“The situation needs to be addressed fairly quickly,” he said.

“Once you’ve got through the first stage of talking to individuals, a counsellor can then help management to go forward and can handle the media and keep people involved informed and make sure there are no split agendas.

“It’s about getting people back in the boat and making sure they are rowing together and making sure people want to be in that boat.”

Dr Saunders said one of the best ways to be proactive in stress management was the incorporation of the end-of-week drinks and nibbles.

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