Q. I have an employee that seriously needs some psychotherapy. He is touchy and defensive, and he alienates his coworkers. He is also brilliant and productive. How do I bring up the topic without making him believe I'm questioning his mental health?
A. You can bring up the idea diplomatically, but you must start by realizing we have a lot of inaccurate myths about what psychotherapy is and what it means if an adult is in therapy. Therapy is simply adult education in emotional and communication issues. If you present it as training, you'll get further than if you suggest your employee is nuts.
The theory behind these results is that people who can admit they make mistakes, have room to learn, and are curious about how to improve their interpersonal toolkit are stronger and more resilient than people who believe they need no help.
Start by meeting privately with your employee. Point out the specific situations you've noticed where you believe he may be missing some communication skills. Emphasize that you find him brilliant and productive, so he gets the idea you are talking about his skills with people not his overall value as a human being.
Point out some alternative language or approaches he could use with coworkers. Let him know that you find him a quick study and want to pair him with a "coach" who can teach him some powerful communication tools.
Do research before you talk with him to find a psychotherapist who can also do executive workplace coaching, so you can give your employee a list of names. Make it clear to your employee that you simply want him to learn new interpersonal skills.
Before you leave the meeting, get a commitment from him that he will call the list of professionals you offered and set up at least one meeting. Also, have a list of skills you want him to learn so he has a performance improvement plan.
If possible, offer some training funds to help cover the cost of part of the therapy. Anything you can do to make counseling more like a class and less like a negative judgment about his sanity will help motivate him to pursue therapy.
If you've been in therapy yourself, or had a friend or family member benefit from counseling, find ways to mention what you learned. Employees who have role models that know the practical results of therapy will be more enthusiastic about seeking help for themselves.
Make sure you stay in touch with your employee and praise his developing skills. Nothing motivates positive change like appreciation for the behavior an employee has already transformed.
The last word(s)
Q. I'd like to start a family. I just was offered a great job, but it involves extensive travel. Is there a way to do both?
A. No, you can't change diapers from a distance.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
How to get employee into counseling
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