Everyone has “IEDs” in their life.

James McGreggor
2 min readJan 29, 2023
Image by Serhii Bondarchuk on Canva

On Thursday I was driving to a client’s office, and I had a passing thought: that looks like it could be an IED (improvised explosive device).

I have not spent a whole lot of time outside the wire when I was deployed, more often I was watching out for rockets and mortars (that happened a lot) or sniper fire, but this thought occurs quite often. It is not a thought that evokes fear or heightened awareness. It is just a passing thought, and sometimes I laugh at the fact that to this day I still do that. What is interesting, is that unless I someone this (as I am doing now), no one would ever know it.

I thought to myself: this is probably not normal and certainly not something that non-veterans would experience.

Then I thought to myself:

  • If experience influences behavior, then how has this impacted me?
  • What other experiences act as “IEDs” in my life that influence my behavior and decision making?
  • What “IEDs” exist in other people’s lives?
  • What trauma have people experienced, or are experiencing, that they are masking the effects of, or are unaware of?

I started to realize that there are people that are family, friends, co-workers, etc. that may be hiding these “IEDs” and may not even know it.

Realizing that, I thought that I need to be more aware and try to be more attune to behaviors of people, to be able to watch out for decisions and behaviors that may be driven by trauma.

To be clear, trauma could be something physical, or emotional, but it may also not be commonly viewed as trauma by everyone even though it is. For example, if someone had an emotionally abusive manager or parent or partner, maybe that person is afraid to speak up, or maybe they overcompensate to make sure that everything is presented in a positive way.

As humans, it would do wonders if we all tried a bit harder, watching out for people masking emotional trauma, in order to better support them emotionally and create a better world. As managers, we really need to focus on this. We need to watch out for often times nuanced and hidden micro-behaviors that are counterproductive, especially with employees that are generally good and try hard, and figure out what may be driving this. While sometimes situations are not in our control, we need to try to understand what “IED’s” may be in people’s life, create an environment that is both accommodating and supportive, and help them understand that they do not have to be afraid of them anymore.

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