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Recognize Trauma at Work with This Easy Acronym

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Awareness is fundamental to sustained trauma-informed change, and part of awareness involves recognizing when you’re having a trauma response. JADE is a useful tool that can help.

two people at work arguing over something, one person looks as if they're pleading and the other has their hands up in a defensive stance

The journey to becoming trauma-informed involves countless small steps, including recognizing and responding to trauma rather than reacting to it.

Today, we’re going to explore a useful tool for recognizing trauma. While we can use this tool to understand when others are experiencing a trauma response, I highly encourage you to use a self-focused lens when you first start using this tool.

JADE is a trauma-informed tool that can help you recognize trauma at work. This powerful acronym can support you in identifying and understanding common trauma responses, both in yourself and in others.

By using the JADE tool, you can become more aware of unhelpful behaviors that perpetuate trauma and take steps to create safer and more supportive work environments.

JADE: Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain

JADE was first introduced as a tool for people going through the Al-Anon 12-step program, but you don’t need to struggle with addiction to benefit from this tool. It’s an incredibly helpful tool that everyone can benefit from, especially when you’re at work.

When we’re talking about trauma healing at work, we need effective and impactful tools that help during intense moments, and JADE is one of them.

JADE specifically helps us notice when we’re experiencing the trauma response of defensiveness.


When we feel the need to explain ourselves without being asked to, it can be a sign of a trauma response. Can you think of a time you felt you needed to justify your behavior, choices, decisions, feelings, or beliefs?

Instead of justifying your decisions, you can try to give other people the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they trust you to make decisions.


Trauma often makes us argumentative, and arguing or debating is a manifestation of the “fight” trauma response. Arguing often escalates tension and can push us (and those around us) further into trauma brain.

When you feel the urge to argue, focusing on open and respectful communication can help you remain in your executive functioning.


Differing opinions and criticism can be triggers for people with trauma. In these moments, we often automatically defend ourselves without thinking.

When you notice yourself becoming defensive, you can redirect by naming it. You might need to revisit the conversation when you’re able to actively listen and understand alternate perspectives.


Explain is similar to justify. Sometimes, we feel the need to explain why something happened or why a mistake was made. But, we’re allowed to make mistakes. We’re human.

Instead, we can trust that our actions, choices, and character speak for us and that others will treat us with respect, kindness, and compassion regardless of the circumstances.

Final Thoughts: Overcome Trauma at Work with JADE

JADE is a tool that helps us recognize when we are engaging in unhelpful behaviors that can perpetuate trauma. By being aware of these behaviors, we can take steps to change them and create safer and more supportive work environments that promote healing and growth.

“In dangerous or life-threatening situations... humans - like other mammals - react with more primitive neurobiological defense systems. To create relationships, humans must subdue these defensive reactions to engage, attach, and form lasting social bonds." Stephen Porges, The Polyvagal Theory


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