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Diary of a Global Therapist

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Madrid, 9 am

Today I start my morning by connecting through the Sinews Online platform with an employee of a multinational  company who is going to be an expatriate in northern Norway.

As usual, the interview begins with our respective presentations and exploring where in his professional career this assignment to the international mobility program arrives and what his expectations are. Right there the routine ends.

 

I enjoy this work above all because of that, each case is different, not because of the destination, not because of the job, but because of the person.

Today the employee who is on the other side of the screen and who speaks to me from Canada has vast international experience,  he worked in Latin American and Arab countries and in his country of origin, but he has always done so accompanied by his family, in this new assignment  it will not be like this, his children start college and the place where he is going to is considerably isolated so he will travel alone.

Throughout the interview we discuss his experience so far, he shares what he knows about where he will reside for the next three years and what he knows or needs to know about his new tasks. We also go over the personal resources he has from his previous experiences (many! I love to see such competent people) and we analyze his personality traits, those that will help him adapt and those that can give him problems and reflect on the difficulties which he anticipates he will face.

Mr. Z takes responsibility and he is looking forward to make the most of this new challenge but he is also aware that it will be very different since he will miss his family, he will be more isolated than on other occasions and the weather and food will not be the best.

In this increasingly global world of work, with more mobility and with more diverse environments, accepting the challenge of moving to another country for work can be, at the same time, the most enriching work experience of your life and one of the most complicated. We know, getting out of the comfort zone costs but helps to widen your borders

By now, you may be wondering about the purpose of this interview. First of all, let me clarify that I am a General Health Psychologist and that I work for SINEWS, a company that since its birth has been dedicated to caring for expatriates and their families in their native language. Companies that move employees around the world ask us for these psychological accompaniment programs because of different reasons:

1. They help both the company and the employee to assess the risk that their mood and mental health may be in making such a significant change.

2. They encourage the professional to explore the possible difficulties that may arise at the destination and to be more aware of their coping strategies: what previous learning can be useful to them and what personal strengths and coping styles they have to handle these difficulties.

3. They improve the link between the company and its workers since, far from being a human resources process, it focuses on the well-being of the employees. Putting the focus on people's well-being and not only on their productivity, we know that it is one of the best ways to retain talent and create a climate of trust and commitment.

As the interview progresses we also explore the social areas and relationships with other colleagues and here comes the most interesting part that will probably be the key to the adaptation of our client today. 

Already in the psychometric personality evaluation that he went through before conducting the interview (a super complete test that is done online and that I carefully review before contacting the employee), I found a high score in social indifference and in difficulty in managing interpersonal situations. Mr. Z affirms that he is not very proactive when starting social relationships and that he has not trained him in previous expatriations since traveling with his family it was not necessary because they frequently did sports or tourist activities on their own.

It is interesting that despite not considering himself a person with high social capacities, he admits that his well-being depends largely on relationships with other people since the best thing he has taken from his previous destinations is the people he has met and the feeling that you can trust the team and create a "small family".

To be completely honest this does not surprises me, neither in the case of Mr. Z nor in any other case, I apply it perfectly to myself. As human beings we are social beings, inevitably and despite our differences, we all depend on our state of mind and well-being on the quality and warmth of our relationships with other people.

The company Mr. Z works for is from the Oil & Gas sector and his next destination is a very isolated one, so generating a good social climate a working environment there will be crucial.

In my conversations with employees in the international mobility program, when we review what they have learned from their previous moves, a very high percentage of professionals talk to me about how “you learn that your way of seeing or doing things is not that it is more or less correct than others, it is only yours and you have to understand and learn that there are other equally valid forms ”, many also mention the power of listening as a key tool for adaptation and for creating bonds with other people.

But there is a question from these interviews that excites me and from which Mr. Z and I will propose a social adaptation strategy in his new destination. It is a question about the personality traits that facilitate our day a day. Throughout the scientific literature, they have been called personal strengths, virtues, values ... but I find it very useful to speak of them as facilitators. We all have traits of our personality that complicate our daily lives, which makes us feel bad ... but we also have facilitating traits, those that make us grow and bring us well-being.

We found out that one of the most important for Mr. Z is curiosity, perhaps he is not very outgoing but his eagerness to meet different people and realities and his desire to learn may serve to create new relationships with those who will be his "little family" at his new destination.

We are already finishing our conversation and now we explore together life habits and strategies for coping with stress and emotional management . Finally, we end the interview reviewing the information we have seen and reminding Mr. Z that if problems arise at his new destination we are at his service for sessions online, proving him psychological support if needed.

I was delighted to meet Mr. Z and I am sure that he will do well, he is a flexible person and he has clear strategies. The plan that we have drawn together will help him.

Now it is time to put in writing the results of the test and the interview, I am now with Mr. Z's report, both the one that I will write for him and in which he will be able to read our plan and see a list of readings that I have given him. This report includes recommendations on how to deal with distance with his family and how to improve his interpersonal skills. I will also do a brief report with suggestions for the company. 

I confess that this part is a bit more tedious, but I find it very useful and that helps me roll up my sleeves. I know it is important. I write with one thought in mind: Good luck with your new stage, Mr. Z!

 

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