The Gains of Listening: Perspectives on Counseling at Work

The Gains of Listening: Perspectives on Counseling at Work

The Gains of Listening: Perspectives on Counseling at Work

The Gains of Listening: Perspectives on Counseling at Work


Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) have been in operation in North America for decades and are now, along with other forms of employee counselling services, becoming firmly established in Britain. This book looks at the rise of counselling at work and addresses some fascinating questions.

• Why should employers be interested in paying for employees to have counselling?

• What kinds of personal problems do people particularly encounter in association with the workplace?

• Exactly what do counsellors do that helps to alleviate individuals' distress or resolve their dilemmas?

• Can the humanising ethos of counselling make a significant impact on large organizations?

As well as promoting the view that employee counselling can contribute to stress reduction and mental health enhancement, the book acknowledges the challenges that the ethos of management presents to counsellors. In a climate of rapid change and uncertainty over jobs, readers will want to consider the importance and potential of really listening to the issues involved in the interface between socioeconomic change and personal turmoil and responsibility.



The title of this book is intended to emphasize the relationship between listening, counselling and interpersonal sensitivity at the levels of the individual and the organization. In its professional sense, the term ‘counselling at work’ refers to specific services, provided by employers for employees, which offer usually short-term, psychotherapeutic assistance, and also advice, guidance and information. Often known as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), such services address mainly individual concerns, or problems in living. In a broader sense, the gains of listening and the ethos of counselling are about promoting the values of respect for others, of understanding the aspirations and limitations of unique individuals and of genuineness, caring and humanitarian concern generally. Thus, as Pearce (1989) among others has noted, counselling at work is also potentially a powerful tool for organizational change and development.

Listening may be considered partly a skilled technical enterprise. Counsellors in training learn to appreciate and use active listening skills, which include a concern for non-judgemental, objective listening, free from distortion and preoccupation; understanding at various levels (the emotional, intellectual and practical, the conscious and unconscious); and disclosing what has been heard in order to check on its accuracy and helpfulness.

Listening may also be considered to be part of the commercial enterprise. The ‘business of listening’ permeates (or should preferably permeate) good human relations, employee and customer relations throughout corporations (Bone 1988). Failure to listen, to attend to, results in poor communication, unaddressed workplace problems, employees’ frustrations being driven underground and ultimately customers complaining and changing loyalties. Bone estimates that we commonly listen at work at only 25 per cent of our . . .

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