Perhaps the main reason leaders get themselves into trouble is they aren’t clear on their role when resolving an employee mental health issue.
There are two roles you should never take on:
Counsellor: It’s not your job to counsel the employee and, in fact, doing so is counterproductive. When you step into the role of counsellor, you blur the lines of responsibility, you inadvertently cast the employee into the role of victim, and you’ll end up being made responsible for anything that goes wrong.
Psychologist: It’s unlikely that you’re qualified to diagnose mental health problems, and arguably, it’s also counterproductive. Even the clinical mental health field is plagued by problems that come from diagnosing people. There is evidence to show that a person’s recovery takes an additional 3 years if there’s a diagnosis because people are naturally inclined to follow social proof – they play the role an ‘expert’ has given them.
We teach participants at our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders to respect that the employee’s problems are not their own and show them how to coach employees to problem solve while providing a safe space where solutions can emerge naturally. We show them how to set an example for their team members, such that mental health issues do not escalate beneath the surface.