“Counselling the workforce”- 20 October 2015.

A couple of years ago a news item highlighted the peculiar and pathetic story of a young man who went abroad for post graduation and eventually landed himself a job as per his desire and perhaps ultimate goal. He was a boy from a town in India and being good in studies he decided to make his fortunes abroad and was encouraged and supported by his parents. In a few months on the job he started feeling the pressure of work. It so happened as the story goes that he was being given extra work by his seniors thoughtlessly with the effect that he was almost loaded with it. He could not bear the stress which started to show on him. He became more aloof and withdrawn from his colleagues and kept doing his work under compulsion. He neither protested nor complained to anyone in the office either from his peer group or his seniors. His parents especially his mother got an intuitive feeling that all was not well but she could do nothing but console him every time they communicated. Finally to cut the story short the young boy gave up his struggles and ended his life. That created quite a stir among readers as emotions ran high as many parents have wards working abroad. What went wrong?

Take another example. A young graduate who was actually looking forward to his new assignment realised soon enough that he was not doing well. He would often get into arguments with his colleagues and his team mates and the work would suffer. He often thought he was right and others were nagging him unnecessarily and hence irritating him. He did not see the point of view of others and of his seniors and hence he was feeling stressed at his so called dismal performance on job. Finally he was asked by his boss to go for counselling and to submit the reports to the office. That perhaps was the best thing they could have done. He underwent regular counselling and a whole lot of emotional baggage of his personal life was unearthed which helped him integrate his feelings and his thoughts. That way he saved his job as well as his mind from further deterioration.

The fact is that people come with all types of personalities with their built in strengths and weaknesses. People come from all types of homes, healthy and dysfunctional as well. People come with huge emotional baggage from their personal lives. People have nevertheless good degrees and qualifications to get selected in interviews but there could still be inherent weaknesses in their personalities or in their mental status. There are a very small but significant percentage of people who suffer from mental disorders and may be on medicines of some sort and may be vulnerable to stressors of various sorts. A larger category of vulnerability would be of people with weaknesses in their personality factors, such as submissiveness, lack of assertiveness, introversion, low tolerance of stress, poor communication skills, lack of team spirit, anger and aggressive tendencies, dominating nature and so on and so forth. Psychological tests of personality can throw up many areas of concern and hence improvement. Some factors which lie dormant can show up under stress while some factors may be present from the beginning. With new challenges in life newer set of skills are required and while some may succeed in attaining them with hard work, others may fail either in identifying them or in acquiring them after identification. Here is where counselling comes handy.

A psychological post mortem of the first case mentioned above could be done. We could conjecture what might have happened. The guy must be under pressure to perform well on the job and under the burden of the expectations of his family. He might not have perceived for himself an escape route of leaving the job, leaving the country and coming back home due to financial reasons. He must be introverted and submissive enough in nature and could not protest the overload being dumped on him. He did not know how to de-stress himself in a foreign country and nor had friends to share his dilemma. Depression overtook him and his life. If only we could have saved his life by simple methods of counselling and psychotherapy. If only someone kind enough on the job could have helped him or referred him for counselling.

Organisations cannot take an inhuman approach to human resource. In fact a human being should not be considered just a ‘human resource’ but a life with respect and dignity of its own. Newcomers need to be given a chance to learn, develop and grow on the job. It would be more humane to train them, coach them, mentor them and counsel them whenever necessary. Evident aberrations needing specialised attention of professionals could be further referred. A long term approach to handling problems and solving them will give better results on productivity too. It might be a tiresome and a seemingly endless task of training, coaching and counselling but it would be a good meaningful service not only to suit your own enterprise but for the greater good of the youth and society in general.


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