Workplace counselling study debunks male myths

Thursday, 5 March 2015

20 August 2007:  A new study into workplace counselling dispels the myth that Aussie men are reluctant to seek professional support in dealing with personal issues.

The research, conducted by Australian Catholic University (ACU) academic Dr Robert Compton in partnership with consulting firm Davidson Trahaire Corpsych, reveals that 34 per cent of all employees who seek counselling in the workplace are male.

And while 22 per cent of employees surveyed were referred to counselling by their manager, usually because of personal issues impacting on work, more than 50 per cent of respondents said they had referred themselves to counselling.

“It is interesting to note that more than a third of people receiving counselling in the workplace are male. It demonstrates that Australian men are willing to accept professional help for their problems – or even seek it out themselves – if it is made available,” Dr Compton, Head of ACU’s School of Business and Informatics (NSW), said.

“Also interesting is the significant percentage of ‘Gen X’ employees seeking support. Workers in this age group are more likely to be caught up in the ‘mortgage trap’ and working longer hours to stay afloat, yet trying to strike a balance between family and work commitments.”

The study reveals that nearly 30 per cent of those seeking workplace counselling did so for issues relating to alcohol (14 per cent), drugs (6.6 per cent) or gambling (8.3 per cent).

In addition, about 70 per cent of workplace counselling cases were directly related to personal, non-work issues, despite businesses and organisations funding the support. 

Those seeking help for work-related issues cited interpersonal issues, such as discrimination or harassment from their managers or co-workers, and vocational issues including workload and work satisfaction as the most significant.

“Although the vast majority of employees seek counselling for non-work-related issues, around half of all employees indicated their problems were having an impact on their work, which in some ways justifies employers having to ‘foot the bill’ for counselling,” Dr Compton said.

“Employers need to be aware that employees do not leave their personal problems at home. If an employee has a personal issue causing stress, then that issue will come to work with them and in most cases impact on their productivity.”

Dr Compton estimates that about 80 per cent of Business Review Weekly ‘Top 100’ organisations have external workplace counselling services in place, indicating a belief that personal problems do have an impact on productivity.

The study involved an analysis of 725,000 employees across 389 Australian workplaces, using data from 31,000 new counselling referrals between January 2006 and June 2007.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.