Category Archives: Strategies

WARM-First Aid for Mental Health

First Aid for Mental Health Problems – W.A.R.M.

WARM-First Aid for Mental HealthSo you think someone you know maybe experiencing a mental health problem? Then the big question is ‘so what do I do? How do I respond now?

There’s no perfect thing that will always ‘work’ 100% of the time, because people are people, and we are all different, but there are definitely some clear principles, that are considered best practice when responding to someone who might be becoming unwell.

We’ve put together an acronym to help you remember the steps. And it’s called WARM.

It’s a reminder that as you do each of the actions in these steps, you are dealing with a person, a human, being, so be warm and friendly in your approach. Remember to use good body language and non-verbal communication that shows you really care. (If you are a manager, we encourage you to look into running a Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders in your workplace to make sure your team has the necessary skills. In the meantime, you might want to check the blog ‘How to Ask ‘R U OK?’)

Lets have a look at the WARM steps:

W stands for Watch – look for the signs and symptoms. Be observant.
It doesn’t mean that you have to be going about your day, nervously staring at everyone and looking for signs and symptoms. If you do that, you will start to think everyone has them! But it does mean to just be aware. If you see some things, and start to be concerned, don’t ignore it.

A stands for ASK – Approach the person directly. Ask them. This is the simplest, and best way to respond. By going directly to the person it avoids getting in a situation where you are talking about the person or making decisions about the person without having all the information and without them being involved. By going directly to the person, it can also help to minimise any fear or paranoia they may have bout office gossip.

So how do you ask then? (We deal with these topics more in detail in the Mental Health Essentials course)

Questions – It’s a good idea to plan your approach alittle bit. What sort of things do you think you should consider before asking the person? Some questions people are asking that are having good results are ‘Are you ok?’, ‘I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately, is everything ok?’ or ‘Are we ok?’

It’s important that you find a question you are comfortable with and that is sensitive to the other person’s style.

Location – Where is the best place to raise this? In the middle of an open plan office it’s usually not a good idea. Ideally you would look for a quiet, private spot somewhere, where you wont be interrupted. You want to he person to feel comfortable to talk, if there is something going on. It’s a good idea to keep it informal as well, so if at all possible. It’s also a good idea to avoid taking the person to a formal meeting room or office. In fact, maybe you can bring it up outside the office, going for a walk or over a tea of coffee? Just a word of caution: make sure the environment is safe for the both of you. If you are a person of the opposite sex, could you get someone else to have the conversation? Would that be more appropriate and safer for you? These are things to think about.

Physical Safety – You should also think about physical safety as well. If there is a chance that the person may want to hurt themselves, you, or others, perhaps it is a good idea to be somewhere where you can either escape easily or you can get other people’s attention,should you need to.

Psychological Safety – It’s good to remember that you are human too and have your own issues, needs and wants. While it’s important we take care of others, it’s also important that we remain strong and resilient ourselves. That’s why so many workplaces are doing resilience training these days. We need to take steps to self care at all times and make sure we stay healthy. If you are applying these principles at work and you are in charge of a team, then it would be good to ensure your team is prepared for anything that comes its way. Our Resilience At Work course is designed to help workplaces stay strong.

Timing – Another thing to think about is timing. If at work, and you are the managers, it is probably not a good idea to raise this matter last thing on a Friday afternoon, or at the end of their shift. You don’t know what it could bring up and then they’ll be going home where they may be alone, or in a not so great environment.

You also don’t want to bring it up right before any important work, for example, before they’re about to go into a meeting or give a presentation.


Read more on mental health first aid….


We usually recommend, that if you are able to choose your timing, then before lunchtime tends to be a good idea. That means that after this conversation the person can have a bit of a break before they go back to work.

The conversation might not be a big in depth one, but we want to be prepared just in case it does bring things up for the person.

R stands for Refer – refer on to professional and other help. Here, it is important not to be too eager to jump in with ‘suggestions’ as to what the person should do. Remember, each person will have their own view of what is going on, and the action you think is best, may not resonate with them at all.

So again, questions are best. You can ask things like ‘have you seen anyone about this, or done anything to get some help with it?’. It is quiet possible that they are already getting some professional help.

Or you can ask them ‘what do you think we could do to get some advice with this?’. Notice the ‘we’ language, helps the person to feel like they are not all on their own with this. You’re in it together.

Or you can ask who or what has been helpful in the past? When the person identifies what they think will be useful, they are much more likely to follow through and actually seek help, than if you told them where to go.

Of course, if they really cant think of anything, then you might like to make a couple of suggestions. Make sure to give a few different options, from a few different filters. For example ‘have you thought about seeing a doctor, or a counselor, or even a life coach?’.

Your aim here is to make sure the person knows what options they have available to them, and if possible has agreed to take some steps to get help.

M stands for Monitor – Finally, the last step is Monitor. Check in with them over the next few days or weeks, and continue supporting them by being available to chat or to help with any practical assistance they may need. If they have said they will get some help, just check in and ask how it went. Keep these check-ins casual, and make sure you also talk with them about other, non mental health related things too. You don’t want all your conversations to be about mental health!

So that’s the WARM response. Easy to remember, and easy to do. As long as you follow those steps, you have gone a long way to assisting someone with a mental health problem.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they WILL get help, or that they WILL get better. But remember they are responsible for what they choose to do. You have done your part to help, and followed the best practice we have for responding to someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem. It also means that this person now knows they are not alone. This is very powerful.

If you are ready to get practical, real skills around this subject, our Mental Health Essentials course does just that over one day. Perfect for workplaces of any sort.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-author

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Group with White Board

Products or People? Systems or Staff?

Group with White BoardIf your budget would only allow you to invest in one area of your business this quarter, would you invest in developing your products or your people? Would you enhance your systems or your staff?

Providing coaching to personnel from their direct manager could be an investment that continues to pay returns. The Sales Executive Council conducted research into the impact of coaching effectiveness within organisations1. The global study, including more than 3000 participants identified findings which include:


Read more on workplace wellbeing and culture….


  • Developing the coaching abilities of sales team managers is an effective way of boosting sales performance of mid-range achievers by up to 19%.
  • Retention of high performing sales people is increased when they consider their manager to be an effective coach. Below average ‘intention to stay’ was recorded for sales people whose managers were rated in the bottom third in terms of coaching effectiveness.
  • Neither ‘Experience as a Manager’ nor ‘Experience in Sales’ had an impact on ratings of managers’ coaching effectiveness.
  • Sales teams receiving less than 2 hours of coaching per month achieved 90% of their sales goals, compared to teams receiving 3 or more hours of coaching per month and achieving 107% of their sales targets2.
  • Research into the retention of training information showed that training alone resulted in a 13% retention of training information at a 30-day reassessment of knowledge, whilst those who had ongoing coaching were able to retain 88% of the information2.

Unfortunately, despite considerable benefit to the sales team when managers provide effective coaching to team members, this is the area that consistently scored lowest on a Manager Skill Index examining 10 manager abilities3.

Which begs the question: will you invest in your product or your people?  Still not sure?  OK, one final statistic: Research has shown that organisations achieve a 1700% ROI when investing in training their managers to be internal coaches4.

  1. October 2005, Teleconference Series, Building a World Class Coaching Program: Upgrading Rep Ability to Engage Customers with Solutions Hypotheses.
  2. “Executive Coaching as a Transfer of Training Tool”, Public Personnel Management, Winter 1997
  3. “Why Do Salespeople Fail?”  Industrial Distribution, 1 March 1996; Sales Executive Council Research Solutions
  4. Rock, D & Donde, R. (2008) “Driving organizational change with internal coaching programs: Part One.” Industrial and Commercial Training, 40, pp 10-18.

 

Author: Alison Skate
Alison Skate author

Alison Skate is a Workplace Mental Health Specialist for Workplace Mental Health Institute. She began her career as a psychologist in the Australian Army more than twenty years ago. Alison is a leadership coach and workshop facilitator.

Lessons Learned

Focus on the Learning, Not the Lesson

Lessons LearnedA friend from my days as a psychologist in the Army once told me about her role as a counsellor for Army recruits. Twenty-five years ago recruit training methods were, well, different to what they are today. Many recruits found the style of their instructors to be intimidating and scary, leading some of them to have second thoughts about their worthiness to be a soldier. Upon seeking some guidance, recruits would reflect that they weren’t cut out for the role.

Imagine the recruit’s instructor has said to the recruits, “Right you lazy lot, get your useless behinds to the mess hall, make sure you eat ‘cos you’re going to need something to puke up this morning in training, then be back here in 15 minutes, or you’ll be scrubbing the showers with your toothbrushes!”. The recruit, understandably, explains to my friend that they don’t feel their instructor has much faith in them.  (This ineffective training style has thankfully disappeared from recruit training establishments!)


Read more on workplace culture and wellbeing….


My friend would ask them to tell her what it was that the instructor had actually asked them to do.

  • “Go eat breakfast, then be back in 15 minutes”, would come the reply.
  • “And what happens if you focus on the other stuff they’ve said?”
  • “I feel horrible, can hardly eat, and just want to go home”.
  • “Does that help you to achieve your training goals?”
  • “No.”
  • “What difference would it make if you were only to focus on the message, but not the delivery?”

The recruit’s face would visibly shift with the new thought, “I’d know what they wanted me to do, but I wouldn’t take all the other stuff to heart”.

Thankfully the majority of us do not experience this degree of ferociousness in the feedback we get at work. Regardless, the principle is the same – focus on the message, not the delivery. The delivery does not change the message, only the impact of the message, so if that impact is not helpful try to focus just on the message. Reframe the message in a way that is positive rather than negative. Instead of “My boss hates it when I ramble in my emails”, think, “My boss prefers brief emails”.

Those of us who are managers can focus on identifying what an individual needs to learn in order to avoid repeating a mistake. In providing performance management, the error will be a part of the discussion, but not the focus of the discussion – effective work behaviour is the focus. Some workplaces do not see mistakes as the learning opportunities they present, but in an environment where the employee’s manager is able to coach them through the lessons learned, the result is an employee who is better prepared to apply the new knowledge to their advantage.

When the culture is that of blame the focus is on the mistake, or the lesson – when the organisation has a coaching culture the focus is on the next step, or the learning.

Author: Alison Skate
Alison Skate author

Alison Skate is a Workplace Mental Health Specialist for Workplace Mental Health Institute. She began her career as a psychologist in the Australian Army more than twenty years ago. Alison is a leadership coach and workshop facilitator.

Peter Diaz with Steve Wozniak

My Main Peeve About Workplace Mental Health and what Steve Wozniak (co founder of Apple) told me about it

I’m a pretty positive guy. I actively practice positivity and this builds resilience. But today, just today, I have to share one of my peeves, if that’s ok. Most people I meet intellectually know and agree that mental health at work is important and vital to get good results. But the thing that frustrates me and annoys me the most, my main peeve about workplace mental health, is that I have to ‘convince’ people to actually take action and do something about it. REALLY? Can you believe it? If people truly understood and believed that taking care of your employees is important, and will give you better business results, then why don’t they do anything about it? Even the research clearly shows that every dollar spent in mental health and wellbeing has an average of 230% return on investment! (and we get a much higher ROI than that!)


Read other interviews by Peter Diaz…


Yet people are slow to act, while their profits are silently drained out of the businesses, and employees are quietly (or not so quietly) burning out. I recently interviewed STEVE WOZNIAK, Apple co-founder with Steve Jobs, and asked him what he thought about this. He confirms it – investing in wellbeing and mental health of your employees is a no-brainer. In the interview, he shares a little about his experience with and thoughts on mental health and psychology, both at Apple, and when he returned to Uni later on (under a false name)! What I love about Steve Wozniak is that he is such a great, down-to-Earth guy. He has family here in Australia, so hopefully, I’ll be able to catch up again on his next visit! This interview is interesting both from a mental health angle and also a human angle. Have a look.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-author

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

EQ better leader

5 Ways Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Leader

As a business leader, your ability to connect with, collaborate with, and inspire the people on your team is crucial. Something that affects your ability to fulfill these roles is your emotional intelligence, a concept popularized by American psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman in his book, aptly named, Emotional Intelligence.

Like intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence can improve over time—which is good news for anyone hoping to lead more effectively in both their professional and personal lives.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, often noted as EQ or EI, is a person’s ability to recognize, understand, manage, and influence their emotions and other people’s emotions. The concept emerged after decades of research suggested that IQ (a measure of a person’s intellectual intelligence) was not always a great predictor of success.

That is, many people with high IQs fail to develop healthy relationships, profitable business ventures, or even general well-being. Likewise, some people who trend lower on the traditional IQ scale enjoy both subjective and objective measures of success in many areas.

This led psychologists to realize that there must be other things also contributing to whether a person succeeds in life. Emotional intelligence, as it turned out, is one of them.


Read more on emotional health and wellbeing…


Based on research from Goleman and other psychologists, EQ has a few key components:

Self-awareness: you can recognize your emotions and understand how they influence your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors

Self-regulation: you demonstrate impulse control, integrity, and the ability to manage your emotions in a healthy way

Social awareness: you’re comfortable in social situations, can pick up on subtle social and emotional cues, and are sensitive to unique group dynamics

Relationship management: you feel empathy for others and are able to inspire and influence people in an engaging way

5 Benefits of Emotional Intelligence for the Leader in You

By sharpening the above components and becoming more emotionally intelligent, you can expect your leadership skills to improve. Here are 5 specific ways:

  1. Improve your communication. The ability to convey exactly what you need from your team, and the ability to listen to what their needs are, can maximize productivity, prevent costly oversights, and ensure that everyone is clear about your company’s mission and expectations.
  2. Defuse conflict. As an emotionally savvy leader, you can prevent small issues from devolving into larger ones, and even address more serious issues with tact and timeliness.
  3. Set a positive workplace standard. You can help create a culture of trust and collaboration that impacts everyone from your colleagues to your customers.
  4. Leverage adversity. Being able to make difficult decisions and reflect honestly on the outcomes allows you to learn more from your challenges and setbacks.
  5. Connect with, develop, and retain quality talent. People want to work with strong leaders. By taking ownership of your own emotional intelligence, you can literally influence and strengthen your team at every level of your organization.

But the benefits don’t stop there. People with a high EQ have been shown to have better mental and physical well-being, less perceived stress, and healthier relationships. So, no matter what your job role is within your organization (or even your own family), know that developing your emotional intelligence can have a profoundly positive impact on everyone around you—including yourself.

How valuable is EQ in the workplace? Tell us what you think.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Mental Health Month Activities

17 Things Your Workplace Can Do For Mental Health Month Activities

Three elements that contribute to a sense of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace are feeling valued, connected to others, and safe.

Mental Health Month gives us an opportunity to reach out and let people know that they matter. That they matter to us.

Design your mental health month activities with these three elements in mind, to create a culture of compassion, fun and connection.

Have a look at these activities below to find something suitable for your team:

Mental Health Month Ideas that are Quick and Low Cost

Mental Health Month Activities

1. Hold a morning/afternoon tea to raise awareness

This is the traditional event. Provide food and they will come! But be careful with this one. If mental health and wellbeing has not been at its best lately, this can backfire and be seen as tokenistic. If you’re going to do this activity, you want to make sure you follow it up with a long term strategy, or have your Senior Exec team pledge their genuine commitment to mental health and wellbeing.

2. Register your team for the Compassion Games

A little bit of kindness can go a long way. Look at the difference it has made in the video at the website here: http://compassiongames.org/

3. Hold a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session on resilience at work

A quick and easy way to introduce the idea of positive mental health and wellbeing to a large number of employees, in a casual and laid back way. Contact us to find out about having a workplace mental health specialist attend your lunchroom in October.

4. Put posters up in the workplace

Mental Health poster do not have to be all doom and gloom In fact, we think it’s better if they focus on the positive side. You can download our posters for free at https://www.wmhi.com.au/posters

5. Tell each other what you like about them

Perhaps you write on a card for each of your team mates, or just make a point of telling them. Either way, find your way to let others know you like having them around. You never know who may really need to hear it today.

6. Engage your team in the ’10,000 Step Challenge’

The research is very clear – physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Have some fun with it by challenging your colleagues to a ‘Step Challenge’. Have participants track their steps with an iphone, fitbit, or pedometer, and log it each day. Offer a prize to the winners each week.

7. End your meetings with “proud and thankfuls”

Let your colleagues know they are appreciated, by this short ritual. At the end of a team meeting or briefing, having each person nominate one person they are thankful for, and why. You’d be surprised what a difference this can make to teamwork and connection.

8. Include an employee story in your newsletter

Have an employee who has experienced mental distress share a little bit on what helped them to feel better. Make sure the story is positive and inspirational – there’s no need to go into all the gory details. It’s even better if this is a person in a senior position. It lets people know that mental health can affect anyone, and that it’s OK to talk about it. Make sure the person is fully comfortable with talking about it.

9. Share some information or videos by email

Let people know it’s Mental Health Month, and share some information on where people can go to get help in the local area. Find some (tasteful) funny or inspirational videos and share them with others.

Mental Health Month Ideas for the Truly Committed

1. Host a ‘Wellbeing Day’ with a range of resources for all staff

This can be an annual event. Find an appropriate space and invite all staff to come along for the day/half day/short session. Set up some tables and invite local health professionals to share some information about their services (yoga, fitness, nutrition, counselling, volunteer groups, etc). Have lucky door prizes and competitions.

2. Invite a Speaker to your workplace event

Invite a mental health or motivational speaker to attend your event and start a conversation about wellbeing. Our specialists are available throughout October, so contact us for more information.

3. Launch an Online Learning Program

Online courses can be a great way to educate employees who have little time, or who are dispersed geographically. Pretty much anything can be delivered by an online format – so long as you have internet connection. This is a quick and simple way to get need to know information to your people.

4. Run some live training on mental health or resilience

Live training is the best way to learn about mental health and wellbeing. Our Workplace Mental Health Specialists are extremely knowledgeable, yet down to earth and fun facilitators who will make sure you have a great time while learning such vital skills that you can apply at work or home, for the rest of your life.

5. Announce the roll out of your Employee Wellbeing Survey

What better way to really find out how the workplace impacts on employee wellbeing than by asking the people themselves! Of course, this has to be done carefully. Our EWS16 Assessment uses validated measures, to help workplaces discover the true level of mental wellbeing within their specific organisation, but more importantly, to identify which activities will make the biggest difference to their employees overall. So their efforts can be channelled in the right direction.

6. Create a ‘Green Room’ space

Workplaces that are benchmarking when it comes to mental health and wellbeing are very aware of the impact of the physical environment on mental health and wellbeing. If you don’t have one, consider setting up a space that is more relaxed and laid back environment for staff to use when they like. It doesn’t have to be labelled as a ‘mental health space’, but just a nice room or area with some couches, magazines, a ‘pod’, a few plants, or whatever – be creative!

7. Put out the call for workplace champions or ‘first responders’

Just as we have designed Workplace Health & Safety Officers, so too it is recommended that workplaces have ‘Mental Health First Responders’. These people need specialised training in how to respond to people that may be in emotional distress. They may also sit on the Wellbeing Committee and be involved in wellbeing initiatives for the organisation. It helps to ensure that initiatives are communicated and adopted organisation wide, and means that work can be distributed amongst team members.

8. Begin your ‘WELL Certification’

WELL Certification is the leading tool for advancing health and wellbeing in buildings globally. A WELL Accredited Professional can help you to achieve certification for your building, workspace or community. Contact us for more information.

So, please, let me know what you did for Mental Health Month, will you?

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Bullying – WMHI blog header

5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

You may not think of your office as a place where bullying occurs, but believe it or not, this kind of interpersonal conflict happens in places other than just the schoolyard.

In fact,

research has shown that as many as 1 in 4 people report that they have experienced workplace bullying firsthand.

Unfortunately, workplace bullying often goes under the radar. Why? First of all, it’s not always as obvious as the overt name-calling, shoving, and teasing that we have come to associate with made-for-TV bullies. Secondly, bullying can be embarrassing: a team member who is being bullied may not want to talk about it for fear of looking weak. He or she may also feel pressure to avoid ‘dobbing in’ a coworker, or becoming the target of the bully if they step in on someone’s behalf.

But workplace bullying can and should be addressed by managers in any business or company. In the work environment, bullying tends to be a long, slow, and progressive process, whereby the perpetrator emotionally and psychologically manipulates his or her target over time. This can lead to serious problems with an overall workplace environment and may even contribute to lost productivity, increased errors, and other issues that are common with a distracted and unhappy team member (not to mention a worst-case scenario in which companies are held legally liable for failing to protect an employee against bullying).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self-assessment to find out.

WMHI Blog – 5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

So, the first step in putting an end to workplace bullying in your company is to learn how to tell if, when, and where it’s happening. Here are 5 subtle signals that your workplace environment may be home to some bullying:

  1. Frequent use of the blame game.

Is there a person on your team who seems to always have an excuse for his or her performance? Does he or she frequently point fingers at someone else, using another person as a scapegoat? Responsibility has to lie somewhere: if someone is unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or inactions, then chances are they’re attempting to unfairly shift that responsibility to someone else.

  1. Minimising the thoughts, contributions, and feelings of others.

Having a patronising attitude toward someone is a subtle way of putting that person down and making him or her feel victimised. A team member who appears to make fun of, minimise, undermine, or discredit someone’s ideas or needs (especially on a consistent basis) could be bullying. They maylaugh derisively at someone’s thoughts or ideas; or physically disengage in communication by turning away and changing topic drastically.

  1. Deceit and dishonesty.

We all tell white lies from time to time. But if a person has a pattern of frequently lying, raising false hopes, or saying they’ll do something and then failing to follow through, then this could be a sign that he or she is trying to take advantage of the people around him or her.

  1. Intentional isolation by way of ignoring or excluding someone.

A sensation of “us versus them” can be seriously detrimental to the health and unity of a company. Team members may achieve this by purposefully not inviting someone to a work event or failing to include them in pertinent discussions, meetings, or projects. Purposefully underusing a team member or persistently delegating undesirable tasks to him or her (especially if they fall within many people’s job descriptions) can also be seen as an attempt for separation.

An example of this is, ‘ghosting’, where the bully will ignore a team member’s attempts to  communicate for legitimate work reasons, while they acknowledge other people’s communication that they consider more important. While this practice is, unfortunately, widely tolerated in Australia, it is, nonetheless, damaging.

  1. Excessive flattery.

Going overboard on compliments and flattery is disingenuous at best; at worst itcan be a form of manipulation, persuading the target to check for the flatterer’s approval on any decisions or action. It can also be used as a prelude to more overt bullying, encouraging a person let their guard down, therefore becoming easier to manipulate.

The best bullies tend to be very smooth operators, able to hide their bullying well, and will leave just enough wiggle room to claim their good intentions are being misconstrued, in the event they’re called out. The best defense against bullies is education and awareness.  When people are aware of the signs, it becomes harder for the bully to operate freely.

Keep in mind that workplace bullying can happen at any level and in any direction within your company. Everyone, from senior level executives all the way to the newest team members should be held to the same standards that are necessary to create a positive and healthy work environment.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

RUOK day blog image

On R U OK Day: How Managers Can Make It Easier For Staff To Say, “I’m Not OK”

On R U OK? Day we’re reminded that leaders play an important role in safeguarding and supporting the mental health of their teams. Asking after the mental health of a team member is the first step, and a very important one, in creating a more mentally healthy workplace.

However, what we’ve noticed over the years in our training and consulting work, and what we’ve read in studies from the major world economies, is that employees are reluctant to open up about mental health concerns to their leaders.

A study we completed recently confirmed what we’ve been hearing. We reached out to our community of managers and everyday employees and asked them two questions:

‘If a friend asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

‘If your BOSS asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

And, anticipating the response we might receive, we asked another question:

What advice would you give management to make it easier for their people to say ‘I’m not OK’?

We asked respondents to leave comments on the first two question if they wished, and we asked about their gender and age group so we could look for basic trends.

The results were pretty interesting.

Results

 

RUOK day blog image

 

Consistent with what we’ve seen and read, managers are a lot less trusted by employees when it comes to disclosing their mental health state. 29% of people said they’d hold back from telling a friend if they have a mental health concern. But that figure jumped to almost half when asked if they’d tell their manager.

 

RUOK day blog image

Gender differences

What did surprise us was that women were less likely to disclose than we expected, and actually less likely than men. Is it possible that women feel less secure in their employment than men, and feel a greater need to keep up appearances? This is an area we’ll be looking into with future research.

Age differences

We received low numbers of respondents under 35, so didn’t include them in age comparisons.

We noticed that males aged 35-44 were the least likely to disclose to friends or a boss. Perhaps with these years being the phase were men start to move into senior leadership and take on significant responsibility, that giving the appearance of ‘not handling it’ would be detrimental to their forward progress and so they stay quiet.

The other trend that stood out was respondents aged over 55. Again, it’s possible that older workers are concerned about job security, and perhaps it’s a generational thing: with older people in the main valuing their privacy and separation of personal life from professional life.

Comments

Would you tell a friend?

Of course, many people said it depends on who the friend is, citing things like:

  • How close they are
  • How easy they are to talk to
  • Whether they had the strength to deal with their reaction
  • Whether they were good listeners and would give their opinion
  • How supportive they are
  • If they thought they could help
  • If the friend has past troubles and perhaps could empathise

For many people, factors like timing, choosing the right setting and how bad things are, were also important.

Reasons they wouldn’t tell a friend included:

  • Not wanting to burden others, especially if they have their own struggles
  • Concern for privacy
  • Not wanting to be seen as a ‘whinger’ or ‘wimp’

But the news was not all bad. There were some strong arguments for telling a friend, a stand out one for us was, “I’ve learned the lesson of when you try to ignore it.” Seems like the message is getting through that asking for help is the best course of action.

Would you tell your boss?

Again, not surprisingly, most respondents said it depends on the person in the big chair.

  • I have faith or trust in my boss
  • It may help them to understand their situation too
  • I work in a supportive organisation
  • I’ve had good personal experience

…were all reasons people said they would and have told their boss.

But the news was not all good. Reasons given for not telling the boss ranged from concern about what might happen:

  • Stays on your record and impacts promotion opportunities
  • Don’t trust the boss
  • May be used against me
  • They may doubt my ability to do the job
  • Blurs boundaries – there are other options available
  • I work in mental health, we are expected to be ‘above that’
  • Fear about being performance managed
  • Don’t want to come across as not having it all together, weak or underperforming

To being once bitten, twice shy:

  • Had a bad past experience
  • Telling my boss complicated the situation
  • Boss avoids me now and I’m discounted
  • It was used to fire me

It’s clear a strong stigma remains around disclosing mental health concerns in the workplace. Alongside asking ‘RUOK?’ which is a noble and very important first step, we need to be giving managers better support. Specifically, we need to do two things:

  1. Help managers break down the stigma attached to mental health issues to create an environment where it’s ok to say, “I’m not OK”
  2. Give them the tools and training to respond and to help an employee who tells them they’re not OK. Sometimes a manager won’t ask because they don’t what to say if the answer is not ‘I’m fine, thanks for asking.’

In doing so, we’ll be creating confident, psychologically safe managers, capable of engaging teams to perform at their best.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the test to find out.

Advice to managers

But don’t just take our word for it. Below we’ve listed verbatim all our respondents’ suggestions for how managers can make it easier for them to disclose a mental health issue without fear of repercussions.
  • Be genuine and authentic, care and empathy – all the time, too late when it comes to R U OK
  • Show interest in the whole person
  • Be available
  • Listen not problem solve
  • Talk about the subject at work, normalise it
  • Peer support group, EAP, resources
  • Discuss options without going down workcover route
  • More conversations
  • Culture of being your whole self at work
  • Open minded and honest
  • Confidential
  • Stress leave, reduced hours, duties, RDOs
  • Better education for managers
  • Let them know re good work too
  • Mental Health and Stress Management Policy
  • Safe that it’s not going to impact job
  • Suggestion boxes for anonymous feedback
  • Ensure privacy
  • Clear open policies promoted
  • Leadership skills for managers
  • Modelling from managers on how to deal with hard times, be vulnerable, take leave etc
  • Don’t doubt the answer when you get it
  • Do something – not just lip service to employee mental health
  • Ask more often not just once a year’
  • Be OK with uncomfortable
  • Treat worker as a human, not a number
  • Get others with a good experience to share it
  • Context – some want to be asked and to talk about it others won’t.
  • Recognise needs of carers (of people with mental illness, elderly, children etc)
  • Ask but also express that work need not be involved as long as performance ok
  • Managers need skills – don’t just pass it off to HR or EAP
  • Know how to follow up the question
On R U OK Day, and every day, let’s ask the question. But let’s go a step further and actualy equip our managers to create the productive and mentally wealthy work environments that we keep asking them for.

If you’d like to know how you can build the capability of your leaders in this space, consider inviting us to run a private Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders for your managers or team.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

3-ways-to-break the-stigma-at-work

3 Ways To Break The Stigma Around Mental Health At Work

Mental health issues are a common problem facing Australians, and the related statistics are telling:

  • Currently, about 450 million people around the world are living with some kind of mental disorder.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, about 25% of the global population will experience a mental disorder at least once in their lifetime.
  • In Australia alone, about 1 out of every 5 of us will experience mental ill-health every year.
  • Mental health problems hold the dubious honor of being the third leading cause of disability within the Australian labour force.
  • It’s been estimated that Australian businesses lose more than $6.5 billion every year by not providing early intervention and treatment for their employees who are experiencing mental health issues.
  • However, despite evidence showing just how common this condition is, it’s been estimated that up to two thirds of people with a known mental health condition choose not to seek professional help.

3-ways-to-break the-stigma-at-workWhy is this so?

Access to care, language barriers, and a dearth of quality resources are a few reasons why, but perhaps the most insidious reason is stigma.

Mental Health Stigma Exists — and it Doesn’t Necessarily Stop at the Workplace

Stigma has a powerful influence in the world of mental health issues. Society at large often views people living with mental disorders as unstable, dangerous, or even violent. People with mental health challenges are often believed to be incapable of leading productive and fulfilling lives—indeed, sufferers themselves may even believe this. Research doesn’t tend to support these assumptions, but media and cultural expectations often bolster them, anyway.

These assumptions—real or imagined—can discourage people living with mental ill-health to seek much needed treatment. Their condition may make them feel ashamed, weak, and alone, which of course only compounds their mental health issue and propagates a vicious feed-forward cycle of stress, isolation, and illness.


Read more on mental illness and recovery…


Mental Health Issues on the Job

If we agree that stigma about mental health is virtually ubiquitous, then it becomes clear how this same stigma can exist in the workplace, too. Specifically, both employers and employees may assume a mental health problem will render a person less productive, less organized, and less able to focus on their tasks at hand. Of course, in some cases this can actually hold true, especially if an individual hasn’t sought treatment for their underlying disorder.

Many workplace team members living with a mental health issue choose to hide their issues. They often fear for their job security or are afraid to risk “losing face” in front of their bosses, colleagues, and customers. On their end, employers may not have the tools and tactics to talk to their employees about their suffering. Indeed, an employer may not even be aware that one of his or her team members is suffering from a mental health issue in the first place (unlike a broken ankle or other physical ailment, mental health conditions are often “invisible” and difficult to recognise).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

It’s worth pausing here to reflect on something: mental health problems are common problems. It’s unfortunate that so many people grappling with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues believe that they have to face their challenges alone. Fortunately, leaders in business organisations are in a unique position to change the way their individual companies approach and accommodate mental health, which can have a profoundly positive impact on the issue of mental health as a whole.

3 Ways to Reduce Stigma Associated with Workplace Mental Health Issues

A workplace culture that stigmatises against workplace mental health issues can be detrimental to both individuals within a company and to the company as a whole. Breaking through this stigma can be extremely difficult. Here are 3 ways to get started:

  1. Educate at all levels.

From senior executives to entry-level team members, everyone in your company can benefit from learning more about mental health. Consider sending out company-wide memos, holding in-services, inviting guest speakers, or even running annual events such as “Mental Health Month” as a way to disseminate information and reduce the fear, stigma, and mystery surrounding mental health.

  1. Ensure everyone on your team has access to help.

Work with your HR team or consultants to raise awareness about policies and programs designed to support both physical and mental health. Use discretion and show that you respect your employees’ privacy.

  1. Make your anti-discrimination policies clear.

As a manager, it’s in your best interest to show your employees that they will not be discriminated against due to a mental health issue. Lead by example. Show that by acknowledging and seeking help for a health issue, a person can become an even more valuable employee at your company, rather than a liability.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn