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Ep 19: When Crisis Strikes

A workplace crisis can take many forms: Natural disasters, civil unrest, suicide and more. Prepare before the storm. People leaders should react with empathy, organization and teamwork. After all, preparing for a crisis is not a question of “if”. It is a question of “when”.

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Meet Lisa

Lisa Leishman is a graduate of Utah State University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and a Master of Science in Human Resources. After graduation, Lisa worked for Logan City then she was hired by USU in Parking and Transportation where she ultimately became the Director of that department. She later became the Program Administrator for the MHR Program at USU then worked in the private sector at ELITechGroup for 7 years as the HR Manager. In 2019 she returned to USU as the Associate Director over benefits within the Office of Human Resources. HR is her passion and she has taught several HR courses at USU. She feels honored to hold the position she has and enjoys working with the most amazing team. Lisa has four children and one beautiful granddaughter.

Follow Lisa on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisaleishmansphr/

Meet Angeline

Angeline Clayson began her career in Human Resources back in 2000, not long after she graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Social Work. While looking for work in her field, she discovered the pay was not what she had hoped, so she broadened her interest in positions and found a job at Sinclair Oil Corporation (now HF Sinclair Corporation) in their Human Resources department. It didn’t take long for Angie to determine that HR was a career path she had an interest in. After nearly 10 years as an HR representative, supporting the recruiting at Sinclair, she left to gain experience administering employee benefits for Savage. 

After a couple of years as a Benefits Specialist at Savage, Angie was provided an opportunity to move back to the Sinclair Oil Corporation. She was hired in their hospitality division at Grand America Hotels and Resorts as their Benefits Manager. Then in 2017, Angie decided it was time to move back to her hometown of Cache Valley and accepted the position of Benefits Supervisor in the Office of Human Resources at Utah State University. She was ecstatic when she got the job, and it was the best move she could have ever made because she absolutely loves the team’s dynamics. 

Angie has a passion for decoding the benefit landscape, making it more accessible and user-friendly for both employers and employees as well as building a culture that breaks down mental health barriers. Angie has one beautiful teenage daughter who brings her immense joy, as well as her extended family and friends.

Follow Angie on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angeline-clayson-90667a26/

Episode Highlights

What is considered a tragedy in the workplace and what has USU done to prepare for tragedies?

Lisa Leishman: “A tragedy is an event that causes great suffering and distress. This could be events that impact one individual or a large-scale tragedy impacting a community such as a pandemic or a worldwide a war. 

We have employees who have family members that are directly impacted by many of these tragedies. Employees are struggling with coping with world events and are having to do more with less. They're overloaded. They're trying to balance family and work and mental health is really impacted by this. We're so grateful that the negative stigma around mental health has decreased over time and people are more willing to talk about it.”

What is Utah State University doing to address tragedies in the workplace?

Be prepared
Lisa Leishman:
“When we look at the potential risks of where tragedies could occur, whether they're university-wide or company-wide or individualistic, we can plan accordingly. And then when a tragedy occurs, we can have the necessary processes and resources in place and available so we can communicate and make sure the tragedy is dealt with effectively and efficiently.”

What we need to do is be prepared to support those employees. Utah state had done very well to initiate mental health programs and resources for students, but we felt the resources for our employees was lacking so we created a program called Aggies Thrive.”

Aggies Thrive
Angie Clayson: “
Aggies Thrive was a mental health initiative that we decided was really important to get out to our employees. We wanted to gather all the available resources for our employees and have them in one location, so we created a website to provide a one-Stop place where employees can learn about the University's employee assistance program, what resources they have through their medical plan and community. So it connects them to material and webinars all around mental health education and support. 

Our other goal for Aggies Thrive was to build a supportive culture around mental health and remove stigmatism around getting necessary help.”

What is the best way to respond initially to a tragedy in the workplace?

Respond quickly and provide resources
Lisa Leishman:
“We had quick action from our critical incident team. We immediately call in a specialist. This is another service that is part of our employee assistance program. Then we offer to meet with individuals one-on-one. We give them resources to help them cope with and then we offered continued support. We check in with the department head on a regular basis to see how those affected are doing.”

We feel very equipped with having information available from employees to supervisors through our employee assistance program and we are ready to disseminate when we hear about tragedies. We send these resources to supervisors so they can be prepared when something happens as well.”

Remove barriers
Angie Clayson:
“We do everything we can when tragedy occurs to remove barriers for that employee or family members who have experienced a loss. For example, we retrieve and fill out necessary paperwork for them for life insurance claims.”

What is the best way to respond initially to a tragedy in the workplace?


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