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Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD)

What is CTSD and how does one avoid it?

For those that maybe suffering from Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD), this is being submitted for feedback and thoughts.

I had the opportunity of having lunch with a few professional colleagues whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. The five of us had worked together for a company rather early as we started our corporate careers.

All of these people I have come to know to be level headed, stand-up, high integrity types of leaders that check all of the boxes pertaining to corporate life and their success is certainly celebrated. We have all since moved on to new companies, new positions and even started our own companies.

What was interesting was a few of the experiences (from a corporate perspective) that were shared as part of that journey to success.

It was clear that each person had what they considered a defining, traumatic or problematic type of interaction that helped to shape them even to this day. Those experiences were not all positive so it started to really get my attention to see where this was going.

As story after story, moment after moment and experience after experience was shared, what was being said all started to have a very common thread to it.

It wasn't until “Stan” spoke that it all came together for me.

He talked about how in his growth as a professional, he has experienced poor leadership, questionable corporate values, less than professional intentions towards others behind close doors, unbecoming personal commentary about peers by leadership, asking for your honesty when they actually wanted your sign off and of course the open-door policy that was really a trap-exit door from those that in the company.

These are a few of the things that Stan has seen, been privileged to or had experienced. He said that these things helped to shape him professionally and has given him a perception of corporate life, both good and (as he paused), not so good.

Although Stan had rebounded and was seemingly doing very well (he’s a Senior Director at a mid-sized company now), I couldn’t help but to notice the emotional energy in his delivery and after some thinking, it dawned on me.

I quietly asked myself if Stan was showing signs of “Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder” (CTSD?)

Before anyone completely dismisses this as not a thing, let's ask ourselves this;

  • Why do employees come in the door of a "new employer" with an “us vs. them” attitude towards management?

  • Why is it challenging to get people to “speak up” when asked?

  • Why do people not embrace the company open-door policy?

  • What causes people to quietly work themselves into the ground even at their own personal detriment?

  • Has your trust been betrayed (thrown under the bus) in a corporate environment and is it still with you to this day?

  • Why do some leaders lead from their insecurities, minus just noting what they are not good at?

All of these have answers but if you have ever had a bad experience in a corporate setting (for whatever reason) and certain moments trigger it even to date, then you might be dealing with CTSD.

As I thought about it, I concluded that yes, it’s more prevalent than one may think. Being transparent, all of our experiences in a corporate setting have not been bad. The positive moments are the ones that keep us going and provide hope.

On the other hand, the negative experiences are the ones that we unknowingly can make decisions from, lead others with and set policy from (if you're in that position to do so).

With the number of people that may deal with the symptoms of CTSD and are not aware, the questions begs to be asked, what is the cause and effect on the bottom line of any company?

Now that we have defined what it is, have you experienced it?

How should we deal with it? What can we do to help mitigate it?

I have a few thoughts on the personal treatment of CTSD but for now, I want to hear from you.

Is Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD) a real thing?


Kenn Dillard

Coach - Life-Line Professional Coaching


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