How to tame stress in the work of a debt collector

Working in debt collection is burdened with a huge dose of stress that affects the employees of the debt collection department at every organizational level. Informing the client about the arrears requires preparation in the field of product knowledge, sales techniques, negotiations, but most of all awareness of one’s own limits of mental endurance. Outlining your own boundaries helps you manage stress and take up daily duties in the debt collection department.

Why is endurance so important?

Most employees in indirect debt collection teams are women because, according to research, they are characterized by greater empathy towards debtors, but also are able to negotiate effectively. Men show stubbornness in pursuing their goals, i.e. they start more often from the position of persuasive powers in conversations with the debtor and are supported by the paradigm of strength, both physical and argumentative.

It can be argued which sex shows greater endurance in the work of the debt collector, but my experience shows that they are women. And the thing is about mental endurance, the ability to deal with stress, moving over something to the agenda and work experience in the debt collection team.

But where do such skills come from? Maybe because women are able to talk the topic over and through with other people from their team, do not conceal a negotiation failure, they can ‘zone out’ when listening to insults directed at them and the institution they represent. And unfortunately, during the debt collection process, sometimes obscene words are uttered, addressed to everyone, in the opinion of the indebted person, who led the debt collection process.

Working under pressure

Every day, an employee of the debt collection department may feel stress due to the need for the result, improvement of collection rates, a coaching conversation, another meeting with superiors, new customer service guidelines, changes in the bonus system, excusing themselves in the face of complaints. There are many reasons, not to mention the stresses in private life that do not disappear from our brain after crossing the office threshold or rather switching to home office.

In line with the thesis of Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, our brain has 2 modes of “work” – fast and slow. Fast mode is highly effective because the decisions are based on previous experience and fit into the pattern of action we already know. The second mode – slow – requires more time to decide, more data to analyse and is critical of each issue. Which mode is used to control stress? In most cases – the slow one. Rationalizing stress factors helps to keep it under control, maybe not fully, but at least it is kept in check. In the context of work in debt collection, during a conversation with a demanding debtor, the fast mode works in the brain – the conversations conducted are drilled and the argumentation is adapted to the situation and the aging of the case in the process. In many cases, the interview scenario attached in the per case/debtor system is also a benefit, which helps to focus and provide the most important information and obtain the necessary data about the situation. Only after the conversation is over, the slow mode is activated, which allows you to draw conclusions and postpone the scheme of operation for the future. The brain’s adaptation to deal with difficult situations is fascinating, and reading about research that uncovers the intricacies of our brain’s ganglia gives you an idea of how much we don’t know about ourselves yet. Let me add that our brain is, on average, 95% fast-paced, so most of our activities we owe it to drilled reactions.

Stress control

The choice of stress management tools is wide, e.g. screaming, boxing, running, meditation, sweets, shopping, walking, smoking, eating. However, there is something more elementary. What do we need to live? Breathe. This is the most important weapon in the internal fight against stress. Anyone can learn breathing techniques that will calm you down and allow you to focus on resolving the stressful situation. And, by the way, it is the most silent tool of the whole range of other stress ‘tamers’. It calms down the pulse, “clears the head” and can be taken between handling subsequent cases. Breathing subconsciously activates the ‘slow’ mode in the brain and allows you to feel that you are in control of the situation and exit the ‘fight’ mode.

People working in debt collection know the latter very well. It accompanies them on a daily basis and is inseparable from work in this department.

Demystifying the debt collection

Over the years, the face of debt collection has changed significantly, although it still has a pejorative tone. If we find out that someone works in debt collection, associations with ‘bottleneck’ or uncompromising nature immediately arise. However, nothing could be more wrong. A good debt collector knows how to talk, is empathetic, knows and can use the art of negotiation, and is great at seeking and finding a compromise. The win-win solution is the bread and butter for a good debt collection worker and they often use it also in personal life – for the benefit of other household members. 😉

Joanna Skawińska

At VSoft S.A., Joanna deals with functional analysis as well as the development and adaptation of IT tools to business needs in the financial area, in particular monitoring and debt collection. She has been gaining knowledge in the area of monitoring and debt collection since 2005, based on her experience in managing processes and teams responsible for monitoring and debt collection for, among others, Bank BPH S.A., Bank Pekao S.A., Alior Bank S.A., SGB-Bank S.A.

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