What is Ethics?
What is Workplace Ethics?

Benefits of Workplace Counseling

Employee Counseling Services Strengthen Organizational Performance

Employee counseling has emerged as the latest HR tool to attract and retain the best employees and increase the quality of the workforce. In today's fast-paced corporate world, there is virtually no organization free of stress ot stress-free employees. The employees can be stressed, depressed, suffering from too much anxiety arising out of workplace related issues like managing deadlines, meeting targets, lack of time to fulfill personal and family commitments, or bereaved and disturbed due to some personal problems.

Organizations have realized the importance of having a stress-free yet motivated and capable workforce. Therefore, many companies have integrated the counseling services in their organizations and making it a part of their culture. Organizations are offering the service of employee counseling to its employees.

Workplace counseling can be defined as the provision of brief psychological therapy for employees of an organization, which is paid for by the employer. An ‘external’ service, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), typically comprises face-to-face counseling, a telephone helpline, legal advice and critical-incident debriefing. In an ‘in-house’ service, counselors may be directly employed by the organization.

Workplace counseling offers employees a facility that is confidential, easily accessed (initial appointment normally within 2 weeks), provides a properly qualified and supervised practitioner, does not raise the threat of a diagnosis of psychiatric disorder, and promises to alleviate distress within a reasonably short period of time (most services allow a limited number sessions in any one year).

Workplace counseling offers the employer a service that is valued by employees, has the potential for savings by reducing sickness absence, takes pressure off managers through the availability of a constructive means of dealing with ‘difficult’ staff or situations, and contributes to its reputation as a caring employer. Workplace counseling is often viewed by employers as an insurance policy against the threat of compensation claims made by employees exposed to work-related stress.

Organizational and occupational psychiatry (OOP) is the subspecialty of psychiatry that focuses on work, its importance in the lives of individuals and work organizations. OOP represents the extension of psychiatric knowledge and skill to the day-to-day functioning of individuals in the workplace and their organizations, with the goal of helping both function better. To this end, psychiatrists have played an important role both in the treatment of workers and consultation to organizations since the early part of the 20th century. These roles have included service as in-house medical directors to major corporations, retained consultants and providers of EAP services. The level of psychiatric involvement in work-related issues has fluctuated over the years; however, the importance of mental health issues in the workplace has grown steadily.

The biggest bottleneck in employee counseling at the workplace is the lack of trust on the employee's part to believe in the organization or his/her superior to share and understand one’s problems. Also, the confidentiality that the counselor won't disclose his personal problems or issues to others in the organization. Time, effort and resources required on the part of the organization are a constraint. 

The benefits of counseling include:

  • Helping the individual to understand and help him/herself
  • Understand the situations and look at them with a new perspective and positive outlook
  • Helping in better decision making
  • Alternate solutions to problems
  • Coping with the situation and the stress

The following aspects of counseling are needed to build a successful program:

  • Employee Counseling needs to be tackled carefully, both on the part of the organization and the counselor. The counseling can turn into a sensitive series of events for the employee and the organization; therefore, the counselor should be either a professional or an experienced, mature employee.
  • The counselor should be flexible in his/her approach and a patient listener. The counselor should have the warmth required to win the trust of the employee so that he/she can share thoughts and problems without any inhibitions.
  • Active and effective listening is one of the most important aspects of the employee counselling.
  • Time should not be a constraint in the process.
  • The counselor should be able to identify the problem and offer concrete advice.
  • The counselor should be able to help the employee to boost the morale and spirit of the employee, create a positive outlook and help employees to make decisions to deal with the problem.

Workplace psychiatry is an important factor in building a healthy organizational environment. The pressures to succeed, conflicts that might occur with one’s superior or co-workers, and personal problems that inhibit performance can become overbearing for some individuals. Add to the mix the potential for social media to be used by some employees against others – a sort of bullying – and we can see why workplace counseling is so important to the success of an organization.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 14, 2014. Dr. Mintz is a professor in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.ethicssage.com.