This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Work Coach Guidance - Keeping Positive In Demanding Times'.

Organisational Psychology 

Keeping Positive in Demanding 
Helping Customers and Yourself 

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
CONTENTS ____________________________________________________________ 2 
INTRODUCTION ________________________________________________________ 3 
REDUNDANCY AND ITS IMPACT ON PEOPLE ________________________________ 3 
SEEING A POSITIVE WAY OUT ____________________________________________ 4 
HOW TO HANDLE THESE CUSTOMERS ____________________________________ 5 
APPROACH THE CUSTOMER WITH EMPATHY _____________________________________ 5 
LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER _________________________________________________ 5 
CHALLENGE THE CUSTOMER _______________________________________________ 5 
KEEP THE INTERVIEW POSITIVE______________________________________________ 6 
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM EMOTIONAL STRESS ___________________________ 6 
YOU CAN ONLY DO YOUR JOB _______________________________________________ 6 
KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE ______________________________________________ 6 
BE RESILIENT __________________________________________________________ 7 
FINALLY ______________________________________________________________ 8 
FURTHER INFORMATION AND LINKS_______________________________________ 8 

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
The Organisational Psychology Consulting Team has received reports that staff in 
Jobcentre Plus are sometimes having difficulties in listening to new customers’ accounts of 
their circumstances, having recently been made redundant.   
Understanding where customers are coming from can help staff to listen to customers 
objectively. Separating the emotion from the facts of the situation will in turn reduce any 
stress felt during the encounter. 
This guide gives staff: 
ƒ  Information on some of the effects of redundancy and how they, as Jobcentre Plus 
advisors, can best help customers see a positive way forward.   
ƒ  Helpful hints that staff can use for themselves to remain positive in these demanding 
Redundancy and its impact on people 
There are some particular characteristics of newly redundant customers, which are 
sufficiently general for staff to be aware of when working with a new customer.  However, 
these may not apply to each individual. 
1.  Newly redundant customers may experience a greater loss of self-esteem, confidence, 
and sense of control over their lives because the decision to leave their job was taken 
out of their hands.   
2.  Similarly, if their experience of redundancy is negative (there are those who are 
relieved to have been made redundant!), a newly redundant customer may grieve for 
their job and all that it allowed them to be and do.   
Grief follows a similar pattern regardless, but the intensity of the grief will differ depending 
on the cause.  The most commonly known grief cycle was developed by Kübler-Ross and 
identifies different stages of grief: 

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
Shock -    
Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news 
Denial -   
Trying to avoid the inevitable 
Anger -   
Frustrated outpouring of emotion 
Bargaining - 
Seeking a way out 
Depression - 
Realisation of the inevitable 
Testing -   
Seeking realistic solutions 
Acceptance - 
Finding the way forward 
These phases do not necessarily come in order, nor will everyone go through all of 
them, but people will experience some of them, until they find a way out of the 
You can’t change the situation for the customers, they need to do that for themselves, but 
what you can do, through your job in Jobcentre Plus, is to help change what people think 
about their situation to enable them to find ‘their way out’
.  In turn, this will give them 
a sense of control back over their lives and boost their self esteem and confidence.   
Seeing a positive way out 
The way the customer thinks about themselves and their situation may make it hard for 
them to visualise the way back into work.  They may strongly feel they won’t find another 
job or that it is pointless to try on the basis of the way they see their personal 
circumstances, and the world of work, and so they don’t try.   
The danger is that you may get “bogged down” in pursuing the detail of any problems the 
customer may be experiencing. It is more constructive to focus on how the customer views 
their situation and how this can be changed to help the customer to develop a positive 
The standard interview process, Work Targeted Interviewing (WTI), helps you to avoid the 
trap of focussing on problems.  WTI applies to newly redundant customers in the same 
way as any other customer.  And WTI applies even if time is short.   
The time WTI takes can vary, particularly at the evaluation stage. In some interviews, if 
you have little time, adjust what you do to fit the time available, but ensure you always 
1.  Know what the specific work goal is 
Defining the purpose of the interview with the customer from the start engages them and 
commits them to the interview and thus helps to keep them focused on the agreed 
outcome of the interview.   
2.  Include an element of evaluation, even if it is only one or two questions.  
Evaluating is probably the most important stage, and the part where you, as the 
interviewer, have an opportunity to make a difference. If you miss out evaluation, you risk 
making no difference and no progress. 
The whole interview is focused on helping the customer to work through and discover 
avenues of work for the future.   

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
How to handle these Customers  
Approach the customer with empathy  
This gives the customer some breathing space where they can air their feelings and 
explain their situation. 
Empathy is ‘the ability to feel and describe the thoughts and feelings of another person’.   
It is not sympathy.  Sympathy is a form of agreement with the customer’s feelings and 
judgement on how you would feel in the same situation.  There is a risk that being 
sympathetic can make someone feel worse about their situation or that you misunderstand 
them, e.g. some customers may have been relieved to not be working where they were, 
but are worried about the future.   
In other words, empathy removes your beliefs and feelings from the equation, freeing you 
up to focus on the content and facts of the customer’s situation.  Facts, whether pleasant, 
unpleasant or even horrific, are neutral. How we address those facts with our attitudes, 
values and previous experience dictates our behaviour and perception of those facts. 
This is an important concept to grasp. It means that whilst you may not be able to change 
the facts of a customer’s situation and circumstances, you can help the customer to work 
out for themselves how they can change the way they view those facts.  This process and 
change of thinking will help the customer identify and generate realistic opportunities for 
the future. 
Listen to the customer 
Take notes and show them that you are listening; there is often a crucial message behind 
the customer’s words.  Demonstrate you have listened by summarising what the customer 
has said.   
This gives the customer control over their situation and builds rapport.  It is this rapport – 
trust – that is crucial to moving forward and will often extend you some leeway when you 
need to focus on the process and challenge the customer’s views and beliefs to find the 
next steps. 
Challenge the customer  
If and when an issue appears to be a problem you need to acknowledge it and get the 
customer to think about the solution to it.  Keep in mind that other professionals may be 
appropriate to help with those solutions, e.g. doctor, CAB, or counselling, so highlight 
Remember as well, newly redundant customers have a work history and skills and 
experiences from working.  Challenge them to realise their wealth of specific and 
transferable skills and what they can offer future and different employers.   

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
Encourage customers to work out for themselves what they need 
This way, when suggestions are made by the adviser, they can be geared towards what 
the customer believes they need – and what they are motivated to work on. This is more 
likely to gain their commitment. 
Use your local labour market information appropriately 
Include your Labour Market & Recruitment Advisor in supporting you to understand the 
areas of work that are shrinking in your area and those opening up.   Newly redundant 
workers are less likely to find work of a similar nature in the locality, since many colleagues 
doing similar jobs will have been made redundant. 
Keep the interview positive 
If the customer is struggling to keep the interview positive and forward moving there are a 
few things you can do to bring the conversation back round. 
1.  explore with the customer what they did well in a difficult situation, e.g. 
ƒ  How have you been managing? 
ƒ  That sounds really tough, what has helped you get through it? 
2. then give positive feedback to encourage the customer, how ever small the 
example, to show them that they handled the situation positively 
3.  and relate this back to their skills, knowledge and abilities that will help them 
through this time of unemployment. 
Protect yourself from emotional stress 
You can only do your job 
With all the constraints put on your time and an increase in numbers coming into the office 
due to 'rapid reclaim', in addition to the economic downturn and post Christmas increase in 
claims there can still be quality to what you are doing.  If you focus on and do your job to 
the best of your ability then you are helping the customer enormously, much more than if 
you just listened and sympathised with their problems.   
Similarly, if you are not able to provide an ideal service to customers, focus on what you 
and the customer have achieved, rather than agonising over what you were unable to do.  
If you are able to stay positive it will instil confidence in the customer too. 
Keep things in perspective 
Try not to get caught up in the details of the customers’ problems.  This is not to say that 
you cannot listen to them blow off some steam, but do so with empathy and  
ƒ  Stick to the facts, don’t embellish them 
ƒ  Separate “what is” from “what might be” 

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
Then identify and highlight the positive things the customer has done and help them to see 
how they can take them forward.   
Remember too, that how you would feel in their situation may be very different to how they 
feel.  A customer’s situation may well be temporary. 
Be Resilient 
Resilience is what allows people to cope and come through difficult and stressful situations 
in life.  The research into resilience was inspired by the way some people coped with 
losing everything in war time Europe whereas others fell apart.  What was it that gave the 
former the strength to carry on?  Resilience is the positive capacity of people to cope with 
stress and catastrophe!   
Crucial to resilience is how you view and think about a situation. Accurate thinking and 
beliefs is the key.  You need to tune into your own thinking and beliefs, and challenge 
these in order to produce positive and proportional reactions to the situation and thus 
boost your resilience.   
1. Beliefs 
Beliefs, or values, are what drive us, they reflect the way we think things should be e.g. 
‘what matters most is love/money/my job’, ‘being emotional is a sign of weakness’ or ‘all 
people are equal’.  These beliefs are so important to us that they dictate our behaviour, 
positively or negatively.   
To boost resilience, be aware of your beliefs and their implications for your behaviour, 
challenge them regularly to ensure they are accurate and realistic in the world and be 
flexible, i.e. see new ways of looking at things.   
We dent our resilience by rigidly applying our beliefs to the world, twisting the facts to 
match our beliefs and only focus on those things that confirm our beliefs.   
2. Thinking 
Thinking, what you are saying to yourself at the time, is what drives reactions to all 
situations and encounters, and your thinking is driven by your beliefs.  However, we all 
make errors in our thinking that can lead to negative reactions when they weren’t 
necessary.  The main errors to be aware of are: 
ƒ  Jumping to conclusions 
ƒ  Applying a biased and narrow view on the facts, rather then seeing the wider 
ƒ  Exaggerating or minimising, rather than seeing the situation for what it is 
ƒ  Taking it personally when it is not (intended to be) 
ƒ  Generalising, rather than recognising a situation as specific 
To boost resilience learn to recognise your thinking in difficult and stressful situations and 
check this thinking to make sure you are being fair, accurate and proportionate.  Once you 
notice what you are thinking you can decide how helpful it is to you and what to do with it 
(e.g. change it or let it go), the thoughts may still come, but you can react in a new way.   

Ψ Organisational Psychology Consulting – Keeping Positive in Demanding Times 
This is about taking control of how you feel and react in difficult and stressful situations.  
Believe in yourself, that you are in control of the situation and your reactions to it.  By 
doing this you can let go of the stress, focus on providing a professional service to 
customers and leave work at work.  
Further information and Links 
Effective Stress Management Pack  
Part 1
Part 2
Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) – Including Work Targeted Interviewing (WTI) 
Keeping Safe
Organisational Psychologists Contact Details 
Alan Beresford - Acting Head of DWP OPD Organisational Psychology Consulting 
Di Balding 
Haley Lancaster (Author) 
Don Brennan 
Larraine Morgan 
Sue Douglas  
Phil Perry 
Celia Goldsmith 
Stuart Watkins 
Roger James 
Wendy Yeomans 
Fiona Lancashire