ACE Study in Business?

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

1 August 2019

I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris titled The Deepest Well. It’s devoted to understanding the long-term effects of childhood adversity. Between 1995-1997, the CDC and Kaiser directed a research study known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE). It showed the correlation between childhood trauma — and health and social problems — throughout people’s lives. While the study has huge implications in the way we raise our children and function as adults, I can’t help but wonder how it affects the business world. These damaged folks (67 percent of Americans, myself included) are our bosses, our coworkers, our clients, and our vendors.

Aside from the detrimental health implications of childhood trauma, the parts that affect the way business is conducted are the social and emotional ramifications. Here’s one example:

Your boss calls you into his office to let you know you’ve made an error. He raises his voice, puts you down, and makes you feel as if you need to work harder to overcome your shortcomings. If you have a low ACE score, you’ll likely stand up for yourself and tell him not to speak to you that way. You’ll let him know his manner is inappropriate. You’ll also let him know you recognize your error, you’ll learn your lesson, and you’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. If your ACE score is high (4 or more), you may get anxious, begin to cry, and promise to do better next time. You’ll leave your boss’s office feeling bad about yourself and wondering why you never do things right.

Now let’s examine the boss because he likely has a high ACE score. If he had a low one, he’d be able to calmly explain the issue, as opposed to intimidating and belittling his employees. He’s likely been spoken to in the negative manner he replicated and, because it worked to change his own behaviors, he thinks that’s the way he must act to effect change.

While the law may not permit us to administer ACE questionnaires to all or any employees, it might be helpful to learn about your own issues and reflect on the ways in which you might more constructively approach other human beings in business, as well as in your personal life. While having a high ACE score may mean you’re more likely to have health and social issues, knowing is half the battle. Self-reflection and self-love can go a long way in improving your life’s capacity.

What’s your ACE score?