As a manager, you’re likely to manage people with mental health issues, and you may well experience your own mental health challenges. If the statistics are right – that it affects 1 in 4 of us – you could say that it’s inevitable.
Some mental health conditions will prove no challenge at all to manage. You may not even be aware that someone is managing pretty well with some kind of difficulty. Indeed, there may be no need for you to know. But if someone does have a mental health condition and, even at the best of times, you find them difficult to relate to, it may be challenging, particularly if you are both under pressure.
Mental health is rarely addressed in management training, so here are three important steps to help you manage the impact of mental health on you and your colleagues.
Step 1. Awareness
As a manager, can you stay mindful despite the pressures you’re under?
The first steps in being mindful are to challenge the myths or assumptions you make around mental health, these might be:
- ‘It’s none of my business.’
If it’s affecting business and performance, it is.
- ‘I can spot it.’
You might not. You might be so engaged in delivery that you fail to notice distress. Or someone might be great at covering it up.
- ‘You’re either well or you’re ill, right?’
In reality, all of us fluctuate, our mental health and wellbeing are constantly changing.
A good manager also puts the extra effort into noticing any unusual behaviour (e.g. working all hours, not contributing to meetings) and makes the right enquiries of the member of staff, thereby allowing them to speak up. Ask ‘How are you?’ to everyone in your team, frequently and in a way that indicates that you want to know, while recognising that unless it’s a safety issue, your team member doesn’t have to share.
Ask ‘How are you?’ to everyone in your team. Do this frequently and in a way that indicates that you want to know. Saying that, it’s important to recognise that, unless it’s a safety issue, your team member doesn’t have to share.
Step 2. Knowledge
As a manager, staying up to speed with knowledge and insights on the subject of workplace mental health is crucial. You can do this by:
- Ensuring you know the relevant workplace policies and procedures.
- Regularly reminding people of the services available to them (e.g. the Employee Assistance Programme).
- Be clear about boundaries, recognising that you are not a clinician, therapist or friend, but that you do have responsibility for the team’s wellbeing and performance.
Step 3. Action
If it is time to act, do so:
- Make referrrals if needed.
- Make sure your language is helpful and appropriate, e.g. use the word ‘pressure’ or ‘stretch’ rather than ‘stress’.
- Be aware if you need help yourself and make sure you get it.