Mental Health Week: Mental Health in the Workplace

As far as I can see, people who live with mental health issues want the same things from their managers as everyone else does, which are the same things that maximise engagement and help companies retain their staff: 

  • Listen to the employee and understand their aspirations, needs and concerns;
  • Give them work that enables them to use their strengths a good proportion of the time;
  • If possible, involve the individual in a team or teams, where members are working for the same outcome;
  • Agree goals and outcomes that develop employees;
  • Let individuals meet the goals in their own way;
  • Help remove any barriers as they arise;
  • Say “thank you” for a job well done.

That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

It can’t be easy though – I don’t know about you, but I have had many managers in my career and I can only think of one who came close to doing all this. 

Since I have been in HR, I have set out to encourage this kind of management, but I have worked with many companies where it is just not happening – even where senior managers have said this is what they want.  It is still usual for people to be promoted to management because they were good at their previous role, then given no training or coaching on how to be a good manager; in those companies it is also likely that they will not have seen good management in practice – so we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t know how it is done.

In my experience, it shouldn’t be too hard, as long as senior management are very clear that this is what they want.  Then they just have to explain it to managers (with training/coaching if required), incentivise this kind of approach and/or provide consequences for those who are not doing it.  Given a bit of time and support for those managers, and possibly removal of some managers who can’t/won’t change, and life will be far better for employees

As well as reducing the amount of work stress, this would improve engagement in companies and therefore retention and productivity – so companies would feel the benefits as well as employees.