- By Ian Bradley
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As explained in my previous posts on the topic of returning to work, the worker disabled by psychological workplace issues needs a comprehensive psychological and occupational assessment. Often this dual assessment leads to various cognitive behavioural interventions that address the employee’s stress or depression as well as an understanding of the workplace issues that led to the stress or depression.
However, returning to work enlightened and rested is not enough; something has to change. Hence, my clients and I spend considerable time developing a detailed plan of how things can be different at work.
Tackling the issues:
Sometimes The Plan focuses just on the individual worker. For instance, I often help managers work on their organizational skills or sales people draw on their creativity. Other times, a simple action plan related to health habits does the trick. Behavioral changes as simple as regulating sleep patterns or accommodating exercise into a busy work schedule often leave my clients feeling revamped and ready to work.
More typically, the plan involves another person -a boss, a co-worker or even a troublesome subordinate. In my experience, it is rare that someone reaches the point of burnout just by working too hard; most often, there is conflict with another or several individuals.
Recently, I had a discussion with a marketing VP who was unnerved by the CEO’s weekly demands for reports of sales variances that might have occurred in any one of a hundred of the nationally-based retail outlets.
The conversations were always defensive, my client was only asked to explain why bad things happened, the boss never inquired about successes. The meetings became dreaded and began to color the overall interaction between the two individuals.
My client and I developed a plan around a meeting with the CEO where we established different ways of tackling the issue, the first step being a frank discussion between the employee and the CEO.
In other cases, the plan addresses the organizational culture. I remember a senior financial analyst who had to deliver credit reports at a meeting where humiliation and attack were perfected to the level of blood sports. The meetings pitted those who wanted the deal on one side of the table against those who were opposed on the other; no matter what my client found in his analysis, he would be attacked by one side or the other. I wish that I could report that a meeting with the organization’s CEO dramatically changed the climate, it didn’t.
In fact, the meeting could never realistically occur. However, my client did return to work with a more adaptive attitude -he simply gave-up trying to defend himself and took on a new perception that the attacks were part of the platy where various participants played their role. In this case the plan was a cognitive shift that involved seeing the battle more impersonally.
Whether the plan involves a new exercise regimen or a new, more assertive approach to facing the boss, a successful return to work requires some form of change; rest just doesn’t cut it. When a realistic plan is developed, confidence to make a successful return to work is dramatically enhanced.