While this may not always be verbalized, this is the message many managers and supervisors want to say to employees who are under-performing at work because of personal problems. The truth is … people cannot leave their hearts at the door when they enter the office! And in fact, heart issues also affect the mind!
Consider just one common problem .. depression. A worker may have depression due to a relationship breakup, mounting debts, a wayward child, a missed promotion, or a host of other life situations. Research shows that when a person is depressed, parts of the brain that control appetite, sleep, thinking, and behavior function abnormally. The depressed worker who is not getting enough sleep could come to work late, not be able to focus well, and be irritable towards co-workers. Without adequate rest and nutrition, they may be more prone to sickness and absences.
Employees with personal problems are not only prone to have more absences and tardiness, they may be physically present but mentally absent. They could be spending time at work attending to their personal problem or just staring into space. They may make poor decisions or more mistakes due to distractions and decreased concentration.
A study by the American Medical Association revealed that productivity of troubled employees decreases by 20%. A survey conducted by PowerVision in 2011 on a small sample of employees who availed of EAP counseling revealed a 10% decrease in the number of hours at work due to their personal problems.
Clearly, companies need to look after their employees’ emotional health as much as their physical health. People who are emotionally down need help in finding concrete solutions to their problems and in adopting a healthier perspective to their situation. Managers and HR personnel can be sensitive to struggling employees and offer a helping hand or a listening ear. An Employee Assistance Program wherein confidential third-party counseling services are made available to employees can supplement internal resources in providing this much-needed support to maintain employee wellness and productivity.
“Seeing a counselor is just for psychos.”
“Asking for help is a sign of weakness. I should be able to handle this myself.”
“I will just talk to my family. It’s shameful to share these personal problems with other people.”
These are just some of the common negative perceptions people have about seeking professional help for problems. Can the Filipino benefit from professional counseling?
While we may have a better support system from family and friends compared to people in Western societies, there are still many occasions when Filipinos can gain opportunities to grow by seeing a psychotherapist:
- when there is a sense of shame about the problem, such as moral or professional failure
- when there is fear of judgment, criticism or personal repercussions
- when the problem is about family members or friends
- when the person wants an unbiased opinion
- when there is concern that the other person will not take it well, or will reveal the information to others
When a troubled person consults someone he knows, he has to consider how the other person will react to his issues. For example, he may not want to share his fears about being laid off to his family, because he does not want them to worry. Or he will not complain to his friends about his wife because he does not want to malign the reputation of his wife. Consulting a third-party frees the troubled person from that burden.
Many people go for counseling because they have broken or dysfunctional families who cannot give them the emotional support they need. There are people who live far from their families or have OFW parents. There are people who are shy and do not have the courage to open up to friends. There are people who want to appear strong and mature to everyone, and so refuse to share their vulnerabilities to friends.
It is true that there is generally a social stigma associated with psychotherapy. But this does not negate the need for people who are troubled to seek professional counseling.
Some companies maintain Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) as part of their Wellness Program or HR benefits. The EAP gives employees access to professional counselling without the stigma, without the trouble of having to look for a competent counselor themselves and without the added financial burden. Does your company have an EAP?