Betsy (name changed) was a top performer in a leading multinational company. One could never notice Betsy without a smile in her face. She was always willing to help others and go the extra mile in delivering her duties with perfection. However, lately, Betsy started turning up late for team meetings and wasn’t her usual self – who used to raise her hands first whenever a question or challenge was thrown. She also subtly avoided unnecessary contact with her team members and began to find ways to communicate most of her work assignments and requirements through email.
“51.2% of IT employees are stressed, and a staggering 68.2% of these stressed professionals are found to be at risk of developing depression.”
Betsy’s manager was a bit worried about the recent turn of events with Betsy’s behaviour. He tried talking to Betsy personally, whenever he got an opportunity but was unable to identify the issue which was bothering Betsy. In fact, Betsy retorted to all concerned, obviously with a wry smile, that she was doing just fine. It was during this time, that Betsy unwittingly nominated herself to attend a communications-related training program in her company – In fact, all she wanted was just a day off from work(space).During the training program, Betsy was able to strike a rapport with the trainer, who incidentally introduced himself as a Learning and Development professional-cum-counselor.
The training which Betsy attended proved to be a game changer – she not only learnt the real meaning of communication but also how to respond to people with different communication styles. Over the next few weeks and months, Betsy sought the assistance of this trainer, to mend her life, which was broken due to misunderstandings and miscommunications with her life partner. It seems Betsy’s estranged partner had deserted her in a fit of rage and she was now left alone to raise her four-year-old son. The subsequent confidential counseling sessions with the trainer proved to be of great help to Betsy, as she regained her self-esteem, confidence and began to be more productive at work.
There are many ‘paddling ducks’ like Betsy in this high-profile, white-collar industry – who look unruffled on the outside, even sporting a bright smile, but carry a lot of pain and confusions within their heart and mind. Moreover, true incidents like this not only highlight the importance of the mental health of an employee, but also the direct correlation between mental fortitude and work productivity.Research says that 51.2% of IT employees are stressed and a staggering 68.2% of these stressed professionals are found to be at risk of developing depression. The root cause of stress too exhaustive to be listed and discussed here –causes include high work pressure, competition among peers, a sense of job insecurity, work-life imbalance, changes in technology, personal issues etc.
“Since success in professional life invariably depends upon how one operates levers such as behavioral traits and emotional intelligence in an optimal manner, a true L&D professional is one who will facilitate this learning in a safe and conducive environment, where employees begin to introspect themselves and realize their need for change or help, both professionally and personally.”
Who could be an ideal workplace counselor?
There are other pressing issues like what initial assistance can be offered to these employees suffering from depression or unable to handle stress.It is true that professional counseling or psychotherapy will ultimately help the depressed. However, experience tells us that these personnel are more open and receptive to even little help coming from people whom they trust. So, who should be that ideal person to assist these employees in the workplace arena – is it their manager or a professional psychotherapist or someone from the Human Resources (HR) team or someone from the Learning & Development (L&D) team?
Employees typically would not be candid with their immediate managers, particularly when discussing sensitive issues. In fact, managers themselves need to walk a tightrope in not getting too personal with their subordinates. On the contrary, counseling provided by professional psychotherapists not sought by many due to the distance in the relationship between the employee and the counselor.Moreover, employees generally tend to view HR professionals as someone who is out there to track and trace!
This leaves the door wide open for the L&D professionals to step up to the challenges of workplace counseling, as they are neither close nor distant from the employees. Besides, the objective of many L&D programs is to affirm or accelerate the learning rate of an employee by making them realize where they stand currently vis-vis where they ought to be. Since success in professional life invariably depends upon how one operates levers such as behavioral traits and emotional intelligence in an optimal manner, a true L&D professional is one who will facilitate this learning in a safe and conducive environment, where employees begin to introspect themselves and realize their need for change or help, both professionally and personally.
What is workplace counseling?
Workplace counselor is akin to being a mentor or a coach. Workplace counseling by an L&D professional is all about subconsciously placing the welfare of the employees much above than any individual targets. Moreover, workplace counseling is a pull-based model, where the intervention happens only when an employee requests for help. Workplace counseling sessions are short and private and can even extend to few additional sessions. And the main agenda of these sessions is to help the employees find their own solution to their problem by providing a non-judgmental, empathic and accessible environment. Finally, an L&D professional should know his limitations and act as a bridge between the employee in distress and mental health specialists like clinical psychologists, particularly when the case-in-hand is acute and requires deep intervention.
*Note: This is the part 1 on how to embed the counseling theme in the L&D curriculum.