Former DOJ victims expert’s book provides step-by-step method to approach trauma in the workplace


Washington, D.C. – For 15 years, senior attorney Katharine Manning advised the Justice Department on working with victims in its most difficult cases, from child exploitation to terrorism to large-scale financial fraud. In doing so, she learned that when the crisis comes, and all of us will face a crisis eventually, we need the same things. “The Empathetic Workplace” (Feb. 16, 2021, HarperCollins Leadership) teaches readers the five steps to respond to trauma at work.

This critical resource gives managers, HR, and anyone who may come into contact with someone in trauma — including workplace violence, harassment, assault, bias, illness, addiction, fraud, bankruptcy, and more — the tools they need to be prepared for what lies ahead.

From top-tier managers at Fortune 500 companies to residence advisers in college dormitories to anyone else who may one day face a report of a traumatic experience at work, the most effective solutions are at your fingertips in this crucial guide for responding to trauma in the workplace. In a time that for many has resulted in a deluge of challenges — a worldwide pandemic, America’s racial reckoning, environmental disaster, and economic upheaval — this guide is needed more than ever.

“The Empathetic Workplace: 5 Steps to a Compassionate, Calm,
and Confident Response to Trauma on the Job”

Katharine Manning | Feb. 16, 2021 | HarperCollins Leadership | Business
Paperback | 9781400220021 | $19.99
Ebook | B08BZ1MVGG | $9.99

About the Author

KATHARINE MANNING has over 25 years’ experience training and consulting on trauma and victimization. As a senior attorney adviser with the Justice Department, for 15 years she counseled on victim rights in high-profile cases like the Boston Marathon bombing, the Pulse nightclub and South Carolina church shootings, the Charlottesville violence, Bernie Madoff, and the case against Olympic Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Now president of Blackbird, Manning helps organizations prepare for and respond to the challenges they face involving employees and members of the public in trauma. She has trained thousands of individuals on compliance with their responsibilities to victims, and she teaches a course on victim rights at American University. Prior to her government service, Manning was an attorney in private practice representing Fortune 500 companies in class actions, insurance, and media cases. Find her at

Early praise for Katharine Manning and “The Empathetic Workplace”

“You cannot read this concise, thorough book without feeling immediately better prepared to respond to a crisis for the benefit of the organization, and for the benefit of the employee. Anyone responsible for the wellbeing of an organization and the people in it should read and implement the lessons Ms. Manning has shared from her extensive experience and research. This book will help its readers make workplaces better human spaces.”

— Kelsey Crowe, co-author of “There Is No Good Card for This”

“If you are a leader, responding to trauma is part of your job — a part of your job you’ve probably not been trained for. ‘The Empathetic Workplace’ will teach you how to take care of the person harmed, yourself, and your team. At any given time, but especially during Covid, at least one of your employees is likely experiencing trauma — illness, racism, sexual harassment, a daily barrage of microaggressions, financial strain. Your response can maximize the odds of recovery and build relationships that give work meaning.”

— Kim Scott, author of “Radical Candor”

“Katharine Manning’s ground-breaking book ‘The Empathetic Workplace’ is required reading for every leader from the CEO to the first-time manager. This book will shock you into awareness of the ‘silent’ enemy — trauma — which impacts individual and team performance in all organizations. Katharine’s 25 years of experience as a counselor, advocate and legal advisor, make this the most comprehensive book to address the trauma crisis that exists today. Add this book to your leadership toolbox immediately and put Katharine’s insights into action.”

— Leslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership,
The George Washington University, Center for Excellence in Public Leadership

In an interview, Katharine Manning can discuss:

  • Her experiences advising the Justice Department on working with victims
  • What is trauma and how should companies prepare for it
  • Creating a productive and healthy workplace environment
  • How to best communicate in moments of crisis without losing your cool
  • The current mental health crisis in America
  • Why it is essential to lead with empathy

An Interview with Katharine Manning

1.  What does trauma mean and how does it show up in the workplace?

People often think the term “trauma” only applies to combat veterans and sexual assault survivors. I have a broader take on it. I think of trauma as a psychological injury that affects performance. It can be caused by anything from a long-term illness to bias or harassment to violence to financial ruin. As we’ve seen this year, it can certainly be caused by a pandemic, by witnessing the murder of a Black man by police, and by losing your home to a wildfire. Trauma shows up at work in lost productivity, absenteeism, decreased engagement and turnover.

2. How should we respond when receiving a story of trauma?

There are five steps we should take to help the person feel understood and supported: Listen, which means active listening with an aim to understand; Acknowledge, or recognize the person and the story he has shared with you; Share information to return to the person in trauma a measure of control; Empower with resources so that the person can take next steps on his own; and Return later to check in, to make sure the person doesn’t need additional information or resources, and to show that you continue to be a support. These steps can be remembered in the moment when someone in trauma comes to you through their acronym, LASER.

3. What resources should managers know about to support their employees?

Managers should definitely be familiar with security, mental health, and flexible work options in their workplace. In addition, calling 211 (or 311 where 211 is not available) can be a great option for more one-off issues (suicide, child abuse, addiction). My website,, has a one-pager with more resources managers should know.

4. How does a compassionate work environment increase productivity?

When we support others through a crisis, we build strong bonds of trust, which leads to increased loyalty, productivity, citizenship behaviors, and better communication. A study of group dynamics at Google showed that the healthiest and most productive teams were those with a high degree of psychological safety, and that psychological safety was enhanced when team members could open up about difficult experiences and support each other through them.

5. How have you seen COVID-19 affecting people’s mental health?

The statistics on this are pretty staggering:

  • Last year, 1 in 12 Americans reported having symptoms of an anxiety disorder. This year, it’s 1 in 3.
  • A majority of Americans believe that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health; among African-Americans, it’s more than two-thirds. It isn’t only African-Americans who are being disproportionately affected, though: There have been more than 2,100 reports of hate crimes against Asian-Americans since the coronavirus began — a jump of more than 1900%.
  • More than half of essential workers have experienced mental health issues in recent months, and more than a fifth have contemplated suicide.

Most of us have seen or experienced the effect of this increased stress, depression, and anxiety in a lost ability to focus, memory lapses, decreased energy, shorter tempers, and more. While this is happening, we are more separate than ever and our social skills are deteriorating. I’m so glad this book is coming out now to help workplaces manage the mental health challenges we are facing with compassion and confidence.

6. What inspired you to write the book, and what do you hope readers gain?

I was so inspired by the #MeToo Movement’s focus on encouraging survivors to speak up, but I felt what was missing was a corresponding focus on encouraging those who received those stories to listen and support the survivors. I also knew from personal experience how hard it can be to listen to a story of trauma, and from my work how prevalent trauma is in our society. I saw so many workplaces struggling with how to receive stories of trauma and be supportive while balancing the need to protect themselves from legal claims. Through my book, I hope to share with people the tools to listen and provide substantive support to those in crisis. This helps the listener, the workplace and, most importantly, the survivor.