Contribution to the Social Dialogue 3. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICE SUPPORT PROVIDED BY BANCA POPOLARE DI MILANO Michela Merano and Irene Pirro Psychologists - Banca Popolare di Milano 1 INTRODUCTION The aim of this work is to show the management model of the differently abled resources adopted by Banca Popolare di Milano. It is certainly a perfectible proposal that has the great merit of having been effective for years already. Therefore, rather than describing a theoretical model, we will propose a best practice which is already set up and consolidated in the company. It was a great honour to be able to show this work during the meeting in Cyprus: the interest shown by the participants and the rich debate which originated confi rmed the effectiveness of the route undertaken so far and stimulated our interest towards the applicatory spheres not yet present in our set-up (for instance, the multicultural aspect). 2 START OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICE SUPPORT The Psychological Service Support (SSP) mainly addresses the disabled persons and those who experience a personal transitory diffi - culty and/or working diffi culty which cause discomfort in the work environment. The disabled persons are mostly hired through the 68/99 law concerning the mandatory employment; the entity of the handicap can be physical, psychic or sensory. The mission of SSP can be summarized into some key points: - to welcome, acknowledge, know the personal discomfort that affects the individual’s productivity and/or the operational unit he/she belongs to; - start a diagnostic process involving, on a methodological choice level, the executives who represent the fi gures of reference for the persons; - define the project intervention which will be personalized and will aim at protecting the mutual relationship between the individual and the organization; - achievement of the intervention; - monitoring. The conditions to start a service of this kind, in any operational set-up, must be: - a clear and legitimate mandate; - knowledge of the workplace culture of the reference in its tangible and intangible aspects; - start of a dialogue with all the parties involved. When SSP was created in BPM, a mapping was made regarding all personnel in the bank hired through the mandatory employment; therefore, it was possible to identify who they were, where they were integrated, what disability they had and which task they were assigned. At the same time, a climate survey was made concerning the personnel’s self and hetero-perception in the working context (how they perceived themselves/ how they were perceived) by using the focus group technique. During this stage of the survey, special attention was paid on the analysis of the informal and intangible dynamics through which the culture of the workplace of reference expressed itself. 2.1 THE CLIMATE ASSESSMENT The climate is expressed through people’s daily behaviours, their personal and shared values, the hierarchical relationships and the relationship among pairs, through communication and information sharing. All these aspects are beyond the mere productive process. The knowledge of the workplace’s climate can help understand some “typical” reactions towards the diverse other, either a disabled individual or a person who belongs to another race and/or culture, or a person who is going through a very critical moment in his/her life. Those who have a working experience with the disabled persons know that there are 3 types of very common dysfunctional and instinctive reactions shown by someone who confronts, perhaps for the first time, a reality he/she is not familiar with: - the search for the similarity by denying the diversity; - the hyper-protection of the person perceived as weak and helpless; - the expulsion of the person. Generally, expulsion is the direct consequence of the first two types of reaction. In the presence of the handicap it is rather automatic to enter a dimension of GUILT. The feeling of guilt derives, in this case, from the perception of the imbalance between one’s welfare and the perception of other people’s suffering and from a feeling of inadequacy which occurs when people don’t know how to behave. When a disabled person integrates into an operational unit, the group can react by strictly conforming to the rules (for instance, the safety measures or the supply of data processing and structural aids necessary to the disabled person etc.); the group therefore assumes that the observance of the current regulations in force concerning the protection of the disadvantaged person is a sufficient condition for his/her integration. In this way the diversity of the person is denied and, in terms of climate assessment, the climate itself is oriented to the paternal code. On the contrary, when the type of reaction of the group is of nursing and hyper-protection to the point of preventing the growth and maturation of the individual, we define the climate as excessively oriented towards the maternal code. In a positive meaning the paternal code is expressed providing the person with the principle of reality, by letting him/her face his/her own duties and responsibilities. At a symbolic level it represents the normative function. The maternal code instead is expressed through the behaviours of care and nursing and, at a symbolic level, represents the emotional function. Every person keeps in himself/herself aspects of both functions: some allow the growth of the individual towards independence, the development of the creative thought, the opening towards the new and the acquaintance of the other; some others ensure the functions connected with the affections, emotions and instincts. In organizational contexts it can be observed how an excessive unbalancing of either dimension leads to an imbalance which is expressed in terms of excessive strictness in the observance of the rule and the total denial of the affective or, on the opposite side, it is expressed in terms of excessive tension towards defence, hyper-protection and repression of self impulses towards independence. The work SSP carries out with the group aims to help the participant find a balance between the two codes so as to allow the disabled person to grow and become professional in a preserved and comfortable setting. Only by starting from the authentic acceptance of the other as different from oneself it is possible to establish a mutual relationship of help. 2.2 DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE PARTIES The integration and management of a disadvantaged worker in a company is a complex and dynamic process which requires a variety of participants. The start of a constructive dialogue among all parties involved is one of the requirements for the good outcome of a project. The aim of the dialogue is to get to a complete sharing of the objectives to pursue and the strategies which will be used. The dialogue represents the field of encounter between those who take part in the management of the “diverse other”: the worker, the company (its representatives) and the social parties (that have an essential supporting role and mediation) but also the supporting net formed by the external figures (family, doctors, cultural mediators etc.). The worker’s welfare is in fact the result of a variety of events which are not all strictly dependent on the working context. To be able to know and let the parties hold a dialogue allows the company to mobilize resources otherwise not available or not immediately to be found. The complexity of this mechanism requires some special care in its management: specifically, it is important that each participant expresses himself/herself only in regards of his/her own competency without going beyond his/her own role and without any confusion among the people involved. For this reason it would be helpful for both the companies and the social parties to provide for an expert on themes of diversity who deeply knows the topic and the policies to adopt. 3 FROM “THINKING ABOUT DOING” TO “THINKING OF DOING”: from the definition of the guide lines to their application. The first spheres we operated in BPM were: the professional retraining of the disabled already present inside the company (motor, sensory, psychic, psychiatric and/or suffering from degenerative diseases) and the management of the new resource placements regarding these protected categories. This experience enabled us to see how the introduction of a new resource placement, especially if disabled, often represents an event able to provoke an imbalance in the group identified for the introduction. Eventually we tried to define some guide lines in order to make it easier for the acceptance of the other, not only in terms of a simple assimilation from the part of the group but also by working with the group in order to guide it towards the integration of the diversity that the new resource represents. According to the logic of assimilation in fact the differences are denied and it is only the other who has to change and adapt; by integration we mean a movement of change and collaboration of the diversities. 3.1 TO BECOME IN CHARGE Our intervention begins by collecting all information about the new resource. The interview is the basic means we use and it is through a series of interviews with the family, with work training agencies and, by previous consent of the person concerned or the family, with the general practitioner that we gather information about the main habits, the previous educational, working experiences and the pathology. The first approach which culminates in the interview with the disabled person consists on gathering an individual anamnesis. In addition to the narration of the principal events of his/her own life, we have the opportunity to see, during the interview, the modality through which the person starts relating and get information on the main habits and on the relational-educational style of the family of origin. It is important to keep in mind that some attitudes or habits could also be reproduced inside the working environment. The communicative and understanding skills are also ascertained and in some situations we proceed by supplying evidence in order to assess the presence of the abilities necessary to operate in a Credit Institute. Finally the dimension of the interview enables us to verify the consciousness the person has about his/her own potentialities and limits. We were able to determine that the best outcomes are the ones which depend on the self image a person has and on the self acceptance level of his/her disease. Disabled persons in particular, can find it difficult to accept their own limitations. In situations of denial, our work is also to lead the resource to an awareness of the value of his/her capabilities and reflect on the difficult aspects of his/her condition. The relationship we establish is educational, oriented to the disabled person achieving a real autonomy. It is neither hyper-protective, nor diversity denying. Educate, from the Latin “e-ducere” literally means to lead out, free, to bring light to something hidden. From this level it can be useful to start a reflection with the resource about the placement project by providing a distinction between an ideal project and a real project. The ideal project refers to the ego-centered dimension of a resource that in an omnipotent attitude may not be able to consider the limits his/her pathology and reality represent. The creation of a much more realistic project instead requires an accurate analysis of the demand; this implies a distinction between what the resource desires, which could be in accordance to what he/she really needs and an examination of the reality which points out the necessary conditions for the disabled resource to express his/her own potentialities. Subsequently, after obtaining a complete and complex outline of the situation, we share the project hypothesis with the Administrative department facilities. We all cooperate in order to identify a working group, a working context and therefore the tasks that the resource will be able to perform. The tasks will also have to be defined by considering the potentialities, the limits and the quality of the contribution provided by the new resource to the group. 3.2 INTERVENTION ON THE EXTERNAL SPACES Over the years we have cooperated with different sectors of the bank in order to outline the interventions necessary to the preparation of the work station. Currently, BPM is able to propose diversified interventions for each specific case while considering, to a maximum extent possible, the uniqueness and diversity of the person. Our cooperation with the real estate sector enabled to remove the architectural barriers and allowed to provide solutions for the type of disability involved. Our profitable collaboration with BPM Informatics sector enabled to provide our disabled colleagues with the most appropriate technological instruments for the execution of their activities: Braille bar and vocal synthesis system for the blind; video-magnifiers for the partially sighted; special mouse and modified keyboards for the colleagues having problems with their upper limbs. As regards the deaf mute colleagues, the Training sector has supported our initiatives by adapting, simplifying the training courses and planning them in a highly visual way. The Human Resources department authorized the presence of LIS interpreters (Italian Sign Language). 3.3 INTERVENTIONS ON THE INTERNAL SPACES: work with the group of colleagues The evaluation of the internal spaces requires a climate assessment of the identified sector and it includes an evaluation of the colleagues intended as individual, affective and professional resources. Through the climate assessment we mainly aim to highlight the group cultural type; for instance, how the group interprets the events, the expected behaviours, the rewarded behaviours, the prohibitions and how the individual is likely to interact inside the group. Then, the attention is shifted to the group’s feelings, their emotional and relational abilities and sometimes their personal history. The presence of a disabled relative inside the family may influence the way the colleague will relate to a newly introduced resource inside his/her operational unit. The aim of our intervention is to train both the person in charge and the group to welcome the new resource; for this specific purpose we meet with them and provide all the necessary information. We also focus on their need of managing their anxiety towards something unknown. A good predisposition to meet with the diverse other, without the conditioning caused by the prejudice or the anxiety, is a positive element for a good outcome of the project. It is also important to convey clear information about the resource’s level of disability and dependence which, in same cases will change thanks to the relationships and the education; in other cases there will be an irreversible condition and it will be necessary to learn how to tolerate it. Oftentimes there is a great initial personal investment into the project from the part of the colleagues; they are basically driven by the need to hope for the other and from the desire (omnipotent) to remedy a nature’s inattentiveness (ideal objective); however, when problems come, the group will start to realize that their availability and their open mind are not enough to guarantee the outcome of the resource placement. This awareness may lead to feelings of frustration and failure, in some cases may even lead the group towards a destructive relationship causing a probable alienation and removal of the disabled person. Therefore it is essential to involve the person in charge of an identified operational unit in the planning of the project by sharing with him/her in a clear way the objectives which can be realistically carried out. It is also important to inform the disabled person about the educational process he/she will have to go through; the educational process will be focused on the objectives and the timing required for their achievement. 3.4 PLACEMENT During the first stages of the placement we make ourselves available to personally accompany the new resource to the group in order to make the encounter easier and less anxious. In the following period we closely monitor the progress of the placement and gradually reduce our presence in order to let the group re-organize and find a new balance. Six month period is the minimum time frame necessary to evaluate the outcome of a project. Meetings with the individual resource, the person in charge or the group will take place after any explicit request for our intervention. 4 CONCLUSIONS In these pages we showed an operational management model of the disabled personnel and the basic theoretical concept linked to it. We also outlined what we deem to be the essential conditions to start a project of this kind. The tested spheres of interest inside BPM are related to the diversified world of the differently abled people and the increasing discomfort in the work place. Unfortunately, these existential conditions can lead people into the risk of being victims of discrimination behaviours, especially during the present crisis. Financial crisis are cause of increasing stress at work inside bank. In this situation the people to be first ill tolerated are the weakest ones and consequently the first expulsed: the companies cannot find the time to manage these resources and cannot invest in their relationship with them. Therefore, we deem useful for the companies to be equipped with competent professional figures ready to manage the diversity and able to coordinate the intervention of the various workplace participants (section-heads, colleagues etc.); they also must be the point of reference for the disabled person’s external world (the family, the social services etc.). In our opinion this model could also be adopted by the social parties; they should be equipped with an expert on diversity able to coordinate and support those who help a worker in difficulty. The dialogue between the company and the trade union upon these topics would be facilitated.
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