It is easier to harness impulsivity in workplaces where there is a culture of appreciationDr Yuliya Richard
Who influenced your career?
I grew up in the Ukranian city of Kryvyi Rih, an iron-ore mining town and the longest city in Europe. My grandmother was a biology and chemistry teacher, and a strong and determined woman. She understood people and was always helping others.
Why did you study psychology?
Linguistics was my first degree. Studying technical communication in Germany, I realised I was more interested in helping people. I studied welfare and community services, psychotherapy, and psychology.
Some of your earliest positions in the field?
In Australia, one of my first jobs was at the Department of Ageing Disability and Home Care. I got broad client experience, learned from others, and there was a good system of supervision.
In 2015, you did a Clinical and Health Psychology Doctorate at the University of Newcastle. What did your research focus on?
It looked at developing and testing computerised cognitive behaviour interventions to address dysfunctional impulsivity in the non-clinical population. My supervisor introduced the topic to me. Using technology to provide another way to help people made sense.
What impulsivity is common in the workplace?
Impulsivity is a misunderstood term but we're talking about people who lack self-control and self-discipline. They often act without thinking and seek immediate reward or gratification. Impulsivity underlies behaviours which can lead to undesired habits, even addictions.
Why did you design web courses for impulsivity?
Research shows the value of online programs. In-person counselling is important but has barriers to take up. It can be hard to get appointments and costly to see a psychologist. Online, people can work through information and their issues privately, cost effectively, at their own pace.
Who can do the courses?
Our website has a free, anonymous, test to help people see if they are suited to them. The courses are useful for self-motivated people who want tools and a plan to help to change their ways. Lawyers are recommending their clients facing road rage, driving under the influence or anger related crime to do our courses. To start to change their ways and prove to the judge that they are taking action. People with psychiatric conditions should always seek treatment from medical and allied health professionals.
What are the results?
We are recruiting participants for further study of the courses' effectiveness. But clients say the course help them be more mindful about their triggers, and more easily notice the negative aspects of their behaviour. Most importantly, they have simple tools to create a self-care plan that works for them. Changing behaviour and bad habits isn't easy. It can be hard to admit to someone that you stuffed up. Course participants can review the material privately to try again.
When can impulsivity be a positive in the workplace?
Spontaneity. When someone helps a colleague to complete their tasks without being asked (provided they have done their own)! Impulsivity can be harnessed in sales roles, and in brainstorming new business ideas or systems improvements.
And a negative?
A person's knee-jerk reactions and mindless behaviour can create conflict in the workplace. Other staff get frustrated. Impulsive people can be enthusiastic and then quickly lose interest in a project or task. Impulsivity can manifest into anger issues, relationship issues, and procrastination. Being unable to control drinking or eating can lead to health and safety issues. If overspending is an issue, there are risks from stealing and fraud. When people are ineffectively dealing with their urges or impulses, including resultant personal relationship issues, there can be an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism.
How can impulsivity be harnessed?
It is important that managers and supervisors recognise team members' different attributes and personalities and assign roles and tasks accordingly. The ultimate responsibility for managing impulsivity lies with the individual though. Colleagues can help by setting clear boundaries and procedures. Checklists are always good for impulsive people: if a staff member reacts too quickly to issues, sends regrettable emails or has inappropriate conversations, they may need a quick check in system with someone before pressing "send" or picking up the phone. It is easier to harness impulsivity in workplaces where there is a culture of appreciation, not blame.
As a psychologist, have you noticed any issues in our pandemic setting?
Definitely - anxiety. People were anxious about working from home and missed the office interaction (or didn't want to always be with family)! Some are now anxious about returning to the office. Border closures made working stressful or more difficult. They physically separated people from family and loved ones. Virtual hugs are no replacement for the real thing. Disturbingly, there has been a rise in family conflict and partner conflict, particularly where lockdowns were longer.