April 19, 2023

2:00 p.m. ET

This event is for invited researchers only.

Scholar presenter:

Erica Johnson, Case Western Reserve University

Seed generators:

Sally Maitlis, University of Oxford

Noni K. Gaylord-Harden, Texas A&M University


The Cycle of Traumatic Stress: Exploring the Impact of Early Life Trauma in the Workplace and the Role of Supervisor Support

Talk description:

Exposure to trauma early in life has profound effects on an individual’s life trajectory, which may also include the level of functioning within the workplace (Felitti et al., 1998). Outcomes are even more injurious for Black workers who are more likely to face childhood maltreatment and community violence before the age of 18, as well as receive inadequate support in the workplace than their White counterparts (Cronholm et al., 2015). Such disparate workplace treatment could exacerbate underlying trauma symptoms from childhood and adolescence, resulting in re-traumatization (Anda et al., 2004; Thompson et al., 2019). Current research juxtaposing early life trauma and work outcomes in adulthood is often neglected in management and overlooks the lifespan effects of trauma on Black communities. The purpose of this study is to investigate how early life trauma (childhood maltreatment and exposure to community violence) contributes to workplace functioning (sense of belonging, engagement, turnover intentions, and absenteeism) and, subsequently, symptoms of PTSD for Black workers compared to their White counterparts. I additionally explore how supervisor support influences the relationship between early life trauma and workplace functioning, as well as between work outcomes and PTSD. A longitudinal cross-lagged structural equation model is used for analysis of data consisting of two waves collected 90 days apart. The study sample includes approximately 1,600 responses from employees at a non-profit and healthcare system in the Midwestern United States. This research is foundational in addressing the effects of early life trauma on workplace functioning, as well as examining its impact on the well-being of Black employees. Moreover, it takes a socio-ecological approach by assessing individual, relational, organizational, community, and societal level factors that contribute to the oppression of Black workers. Study findings may provide novel insights from a trauma-informed organizational perspective to enhance supervisor support and the workplace functioning of marginalized employees.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubators here and direct questions about individual sessions to cpo-events@umich.edu.