Psychologist Daryl Joseph will make history next month.
Earlier this year Joseph, the co-founder and managing director of Josal Consulting, was elected unopposed to the position of president-elect of the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), the world’s oldest and largest association for employee assistance professionals.
When he is sworn-in in October, he will be the first president-elect of the association from outside of North America in its 51-year history.
However, he is hoping to bring about a new awareness concerning employee assistance to T&T.
“Honestly, the role is one thing and I’m very I’m humbled by it. I’m thankful but I intend to make my mark and I intend to represent to the best of my ability. But I think what’s more important is for us as a country and all leaders, in particular, to realise that people are not machines. And things impact the way people work. And if we want to get the best out of people, if we want to get not just the best work, we want to get the best ideas, the most creative solutions the best products we need, we have a responsibility to ensure that people are at their best,” said Joseph, who noted that there were several negative situations floating around the country which impacted the workforce.
Joseph has been with EAPA for 14 years. During his time there he was entranced by the scope of the organisation’s work but over time made his mark with his contributions.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the work and with the potential of the work. And so I got involved. I was on our sub-committee from 2014 to 2017 that’s the sub-committee dealing with people wanting to become certified in employee assistance. So the commission that oversaw the examination,” said Joseph, who explained that experience saw him thrust into the deep end as he took on crucial aspects of the exam procedure. It, however, helped build his reputation within the association and lead to his election to the EAPA board of directors in 2020.
“My first foray into being on a committee was involved in actually writing questions for the examination and reviewing queries and that sort of thing and also three years of doing that. You get whatever you don’t understand from your own practice. Your knowledge ramps up very quickly. So two years after I completed that time on that committee, I was elected by the membership at the membership elections to the board of directors,” said Joseph.
His new role will see him prepare to take up the full presidential role in two years, as the organisation transitions from its current president.
Despite the many firsts attached to his title, Joseph said he was not expecting his approach to be defined by that.
“I was raised in a family where my parents taught us to be aware of things but not to allow things to become a problem. So the issues around, that I am the first person of African descent and I’m the first president outside of North America (to be elected). But I’m aware of those things,” said Joseph.
“I will never have and I will not make it a problem. I treat everybody as people I reach out and I liaise with people and I deal with people I deal with problems just as they are on the surface. And it has worked for me. I think that particular characteristic actually is one of the reasons why the membership accepted me.”
Joseph is hopeful that his ascension will allow for greater understanding with regard to the importance of employee assistance, which he said is currently being misrepresented as simple counselling for workers.
He pointed to the recent protest in Cocorite as one example of a situation which has numerous ripple effects which are often overlooked in the workplace with regard to both employee well being and productivity.
“They’re protesting what they believe they are entitled to, and they’re protesting things that they’re frustrated about. They’re protesting things that they believe they deserve to have. I imagine some of those people at least have a workplace to go to.
“I imagine that the hundreds and thousands of people who were delayed in getting into Port-of-Spain this morning have workplaces to go to. What sort of frame of mind do you think the people who were in traffic this morning are in? Or the people who are protesting, people who don’t have water or don’t have whatever it is, what sort of frame of mind are those people get into their workplace with? How are they able to function and put in a good day’s work, put in some solid hours, but then you know, quality work?” he asked.
Joseph noted that often managers are too locked into getting the job done as opposed to recognising that the environment created for their workers isn’t conducive to hitting the expected targets.
“Everywhere you look, there are signs of people, signs of dysfunction, mentally, emotionally, physically as well because they’re all tied together. And you know, managers or supervisors are not trained to deal with people at this level, they are trained to get the work done. ‘Alright, so who’s gonna do it? How’s it gonna get done?’ This is where employee assistance is and it is critical at this point, if we are to move forward as a nation, as a productive nation, critical at this point,” said Joseph, who recognised the situation has only been amplified by the pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everywhere in our country people are stressed, people are under pressure, people have to deal with traffic. They have to deal with problems with education and children. They have to deal with money problems. And yet still we masquerade, it’s funny how things in life rhyme. We play mas but we also masquerade a lot and we pretend that people in the workplace are functioning well, whereas all the signs of dysfunction are there for all and everybody to see,” he said.
“The job of employee assistance is a mammoth one because we are the professionals. We are the ones with the experience, who are expected to help the persons who were stuck in traffic this morning,” Joseph said, “Not just to get to work safely, but to be calm, to be poised, to put aside the frustration they have and to deal with a problem colleague, a supervisor or a manager who is down their neck, customers who are down their throats to deal with all of these things with a cool, calm, clear head and not just to be calm but to be passionate, right? To be devoted to their work and to really, really give up their best. That is the task. That is the responsibility, that is the challenge of employee assistance.”
Joseph explained companies needed to take a more nuanced and introspective approach in a bid to ensure their employees could be at their best, to deliver their best.
“A proper employee assistance approach starts with leadership. It starts with culture. It starts with practices that starts with habits and trickles down to education and trickles down to dealing with people sometimes on a one-on-one basis.
“The practice of Employee Assistance worldwide is what I just described. It’s a top-down approach that begins at the leadership level,” he said, “You understand the importance of taking this kind of approach because in many instances, what happens is that you want to fix people by sending them for counselling, but then you bring them back into a toxic environment where the dysfunction is once again raised and where all of the reasons they became in the state. It all comes back again because of what’s happening within the workplace. Because of the culture because of the habits, because of processes, because of the organisation.”
He said several of the world’s top companies have adjusted their employee assistance programmes to address these concerns and urged many local companies to follow suit.