Tag Archives: Workplace Mental Health

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.

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.

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Psychological Injury at Work

What Most People Don’t Know About Psychological Injury at Work

Traditionally, when speaking of Workplace Health and Safety, psychological injury is not something we thought about. But, as many professionals have realized lately, a Workplace Health and Safety strategy is severely incomplete without taking psychological injury into account. (for help creating a Mental Health Workplace Strategy visit www.wmhi.com.au) Psychological injury is also known as psychiatric injury, and it includes all mental, emotional and physical injuries acquired from the place of employment. Employees that suffer from a psychological injury due to an employer’s negligence can take legal steps against their employers, so it is essential to create a safe working environment to prevent such occurrences. Legally, it’s no longer ok to ignore the psychological safety of employees. Managers are now liable.

Yet, how do we know if an employee is at risk of psychological injury at work? One symptom of employees that are suffering from psychological injuries is a noticeable and measurable reduction in their production or in the way they handle, or their inability to handle, emotional issues. Psychological Injury at WorkFor example, they may become acutely defensive even when feedback given in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately, many businesses refuse to recognize that a place of business can have a severe psychological impact on its employees. However, considering that employees in full-time employment spend a significant portion of their time at work,it is clear that a workplace plays a vital role in an employee’s life. As well as their psychological state.

Traditionally, psychological injury was thought to be brought about by stressors in the workplace such as extremely high workloads, difficult employees, unrealistic deadlines or unrewarding work. Under this assumption, it was thought that a combination of stressors in a place of business increased the risk of psychological injury significantly. However, according to recent studies, other crucial factors can affect or cause mental injury at work. According to these studies, relationships at work and the level of support given to employeesis more likely to cause psychological injuries than anything else. In this regard, the less supported, the less valued and the less understood an employee feels at work, the greater the risk of a psychological injury.

This not only indicates that a change of attitude and behavior is required from employers;it also emphasizes the need to establish interpersonal relationships with employees.  A positive relationship between employers and their employees creates a platform to handle conflicts well, which reduces the number of psychological injury claims made by employees. Additionally, through positive work relationships, collaborative behavior is encouraged, which promotes the establishment of considerationsthat can regulate the number of psychological injury cases that may arise.

A business that supports its employees through flexible arrangements makes employees feel valued, which encourages productivity in the personal and business lives of employees. To reduce conflict brought about by psychological injuries, it is essential for employers to create a safe work environment that is free of discriminatory practices and one that fosters positive work relationships between employees of all levels. By instituting training, campaigns and prevention strategies, employees can become more engaged, happier and less inclined to take legal action.

It takes effort, from both the employers and their employees to reduce the instances of injury. But, ultimately, it’s the employers responsibility to take the initiative to create a psychologically safe environment at work.

We help management create psychologically safe environments, and minimise psychological injury, with our many programs. In particular, our flagship course the Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders. Check it out and see if it can help you too.

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:
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Mental Health and Productivity

Mental Health and Productivity. Why Managers Need Mental Health Courses

Workplace Mental health is an issue of grave concern. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of absenteeism from work. Mental health problems at work can cause immense suffering to those experiencing them, and those around them. As such, there is an overwhelming need for managers, business owners and employees to address the issue of mental health at work. Managers particularly should play a significant role in promoting mental health among employees. However, it is essential that managers receive the right support to assist them to handle this task efficiently. If we are to empower supervisors and staff to make a positive impact on mental health it will involve giving them the proper training from industry experts and professionals through mental health courses.

Mental Health and ProductivityA course on mental health would create awareness and understanding among managers, as well as teach them important lessons such as how to categorise common mental health disorders. Besides learning how to classify the signs and symptoms of mental suffering, they would also be counseled on practical strategies that can support members of their organisation.

The major benefits of taking a mental health course include:

  1. Gaining the ability to understand and appreciate the stigma surrounding mental health at work.
  2. Giving employees the confidence to handle clients or workmates suffering from mental health conditions in a humane manner.
  3. Awarding employees and business owners the opportunity to understand the legal requirements surrounding workplace mental health care.
  4. Teaching people techniques and strategies for managing employees with mental conditions.
  5. Improving one’s understanding of stress and how it impacts morale at work.
  6. Reflecting on our own attitude towards mental health problems. If the attitude is a negative one, then we can take measures to change and improve.
  7. Allowing participants to learn possible interventions for workplace mental illnesses.

The outcome of a good mental health training course should be to help management and their employees create a work environment where personal resilience is enhanced, and the comfort and safety of all employees is protected. This will enable the workforce to respond effectively to the challenges that arise while working, which in turn will enhance their confidence, allowing them to produce their very best.

Organisations often lose out on the expertise of capable workers due to mismanagement. Knowing what to do and how to manage the mental health of teams can be tricky. For most people suffering from mental health conditions, their last resort is often, sadly, a choice between a decline of their mental health or abandoning their jobs. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and investing in a course in mental health is the best way to secure the mental health of a workforce. The training should be practical and applicable so that the psychological safety and wellbeing of the whole organisation and its employees is enhanced. Good workplace mental health is good business and at the Workplace Mental Health Institute we want to help.

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:
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Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace

Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Mental Stigma And Stress In The WorkplaceEmployees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

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:
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loyalty-blog-image

Workplace loyalty is dead. Or is it?

loyalty-blog-imageLooking around at today’s organisation and it would seem as though employee loyalty to their organisation and organisations’ loyalty to their employees is dead. For many of today’s workforce, the greener grass at the other company or new position is too tempting to pass up. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn showed that Millennials, those who reach adulthood in the 20th century, will work for nearly twice as many companies in the first five years of their career than their parents did. What’s more, today the average person will have twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. Is this the nail in the coffin for loyalty?

A look at history

In the not-so-distant past, loyalty in the workplace meant remaining at the same company throughout a person’s career. During much of the 20th century, employees would work their entire career for one or two employers and in return, the organisation would give their employees the unspoken promise of lifetime employment and a pension retirement. With the popularity of unionisation throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, collective bargaining agreements and the promise of steady raises and consistent employment held employees to their companies during uncertain economic times where double digit inflation was the norm. However, as the grip of unions began to loosen in the 1990’s in favor of human resource departments and individual performance reviews, employee loyalty began to loosen as well. With the advent of the internet and the expansion of a global economy, suddenly labor costs could be cut dramatically by hiring a less expensive workforce in another country and a company’s loyalty to their workers at home was cast aside in favor of global expansion and rising profits.

Redefining Loyalty

While it is tempting to assume that in today’s economy, it is impossible for organisations to show loyalty to their employees, it perhaps is more important to redefine what loyalty looks like in the 21st century. Where our parents and grandparents showed loyalty to their company by doing their job tirelessly for 30 or 40 years, today’s worker is more likely to look for ways to use their individual talents on behalf of the organisation. Whether they are looking for innovative ways to solve a problem, creating effective work teams or helping employees reach their own career potential, today’s workers are driven by a need to see how their work relates to the organisational objectives as a whole. Managers who use performance reviews to discuss how an individual’s goals relate to the overall organisational mission will be rewarded with loyalty to that objective. Such loyalty is arguably more productive in today’s fast-paced business environment and contributes to a strong workplace culture.

Loyalty can also be defined as compensating employees fairly for the work they are completing. Too many companies rely on their organisational mission for their compensation strategy, arguing that contributing to their purpose should be enough to combat unfair wages. In reality, organisations who compensate their employees fairly and who have clearly defined objectives for bonuses and raises are more likely to retain their employees.

While it is nice to talk about organisation-wide strategies for both garnering and showing loyalty, applying these principles on a team level may be even more important. While more than 30% of Fortune 500 chief executives have lasted less than three years over the course of the last two decades, research from the Gallup organisation shows that employee engagement, a common indicator of productivity, has declined across industries over the last decade. Since top-down initiatives cannot function if senior leadership is in constant fluctuation, the lot falls to mid-level managers to foster team loyalty:

  1. Identify and reiterate the team’s purpose. Align the team’s short and long-term goals with organisational strategy that will help team members see how their success contributes to the business as a whole.
  2. Encourage open discussion without blame or shame. Creating an environment where ideas, opinions, successes and failures can be shared without fear of negative repercussions fosters a sense of loyalty amongst a team’s members.
  3. Ask more questions than you answer. Casting a wide net throughout the team for feedback and input allows everyone to express their feelings and work toward a consensus.
  4. Openly praise success. Both individual and team-based success should be frequently praised in public when objectives are achieved.

While it is unlikely a person will end their career with the same company they began it with, loyalty to a team or organisation is not dead. Instead, it has a new face that is reflective of a fast-paced, changing economy.

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:
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Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

OwlsMachiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

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:
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managing up

The Art of Managing Upwards

managing upSometimes, it’s easy to get too comfortable in your career, isn’t it? You come to a time where you can do everything that is expected of you easily, without a lot of stress. But, beware! you can, at this point start to feel a little less satisfaction. You may feel that you are not being challenged. Or, you can worry that you will stagnate in your career and never move up to the heights you are capable of. What you need to do then is this: get good at managing up.Managing up refers to stretching yourself in your job. Instead of focusing on just what needs to get done to fulfill your duties, look at what needs to happen to help your company as a whole and you in your career grow. It means taking on additional tasks that make your manager’s life easier and make you a more valuable part of the enterprise.

Why is Managing Upwards important?

If we just stick to our job descriptions, the people who work around us will never know our full capabilities and potential. It is too easy to get stagnated and stop moving forward in your career. By making managing up part of your philosophy and strategy, you can become more valuable to your department and the company.

It’s also good protection. If there is a down turn in your business, your industry or the economy as a whole, there will be times when cuts may need to be made. By showing that you are valuable and committed, you can increase your chances that you will be there to ride along on the next upswing.

And, more than anything else, it’s good for your mental health at work. When you come in dedicated to being valuable, you will feel more confident and happier about the work that you do. A sense that you are doing valuable work and helping to build something leads to higher job satisfaction. Since most of us spend a significant amount of our time at work, finding value there enhances every part of our lives.

5 Tips for Succeeding at Managing Up

Once you’ve decided that managing up is part of your strategy, you need to figure out how to succeed at it. If you are going to keep your efforts productive, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Get to know and understand your manager.

You and your manager need to be able to communicate clearly. You need to understand what their priorities are and what they want from the people who work with them. If you do not understand what your manager means, for instance, when they asks for a task to be completed, take the time to learn. And, know what your manager prefers. For instance, many people do not like to hear new ideas unless there is data to back it up. Make sure you give your manager what they need to be able to say ‘yes’.

2. Jump in where you are needed.

Don’t wait to be told that something needs to be done. When you observe a need, find a way to fulfill it. By jumping in, you show your willingness to take chances and your willingness to get things done.

3. Keep your boss informed.

Your manager is not a mind reader. Tell him regularly what you are working on and what you have accomplished. By keeping a running narrative, you can demonstrate your value to the company and begin to move up.

4. Work on building relationships.

Get to know the people in your company and in your industry. By making sure that people know who you are and the work ethic and ingenuity you bring to the job, the more likely they will think of you when new opportunities come up.

5. Keep things positive.

Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can be is someone who is easy and pleasant to work with. Stay out of company politics and drama. Keep complaining to a minimum when things do not go as planned. By making sure that you are easy to be around, you help ensure that you are the person people want to pick for new projects.

Managing up is not just doing a few extra things around the office. It’s a philosophical difference in how you relate at work. You will find that when you start looking at your career through this lens, you will feel happier, more fulfilled and more pleasantly challenged in your work.

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:
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workplace-anger

Office Rage: Handling Anger in the Workplace

Anger managementAnger. Everyone feels it at some stage in their lives. Putting a person – any person – in the pressure cooker that is the work place for a period of time and they are guaranteed to get angry at some point. That includes you, the manager, as well. A strong leader knows how to identify anger within themselves and others and knows what steps to take in order to rectify the situation.

As mentioned, there are two types of anger in the work place: yours and that of your people, each with their own two separate sub-types, overt and covert anger. Overt anger is visible and easy to spot, both within yourself and your people. It is out in the open, most likely used in a confrontation.

Covert anger is the anger that nobody was able to spot in time and became overt anger. This is the one to look out for. It is annoyance, irritation or passive aggression. Feelings we have all been told not to show, to grin and bear, to the point where sometimes, we don’t even notice they are there. But, they still manifest in a variety of different ways:

    • Procrastination
    • Perpetual or habitual lateness
    • A liking for sadistic or ironic humour
    • Sarcasm or cynicism
    • Frequent sighing
    • Clenching of fists or jaws
    • Facial tics
    • Passive aggressiveness


If you’ve noticed any of these within a member of your team, you will want to subtly investigate the cause so you can decide what to do next.

The best way to approach this is by being casual. Instead of pulling the person into your office for a chat, which may only exacerbate the situation, align your lunch with theirs, ask them about their day, their lives. Allow them to open up to you. If it is an issue at work, work with them to address it.

If it is an issue at home, be patient with them and allow them time to sort it out, and of course, offer your support if you can and it is appropriate. For anybody, having a manager that they can confide in and is understanding is of great comfort. It makes it much easier for them to “leave it at the door.”

And the same applies to you, the manager too. If you notice these feelings or signs, talk to someone about them, even if it is a member of your staff (showing that you trust them helps build their trust in you). It is important not to let this anger bubble under the surface, because it will eventually explode and either you or a member of your staff to will find themselves in a very compromising situation.

All overt anger was once covert anger. However, the length of time it has been bubbling under the surface can vary. It can be built up over weeks or months, or it can boil over in a matter of minutes. If confronted with this sort of anger in a member of your staff, it is important to remove them from the situation immediately. Again, taking them to the intimidating confines of your office for a chat has potential to make matters worse, therefore, it is best to take them for a walk or a coffee and talk to them calmly about what is making them feel this way.

Getting angry yourself will only make matters worse.

It is important to be a calming influence. Again, this is done by showing patience and care. Having a calm, rational and friendly chat with the employee will allow them to open up and tell you their grievances in order for you to help resolve them.

If you find these feelings boiling over within yourself, it is important to remove yourself from the situation, compose and control yourself and let the initial anger dissipate before you confront the source. This is especially important if the source of your anger is a member of your team. Taking a breather, whether it be for 5 minutes or leaving it for the next day is invaluable as it will allow you to confront the situation calmly, rationally and maturely – ensuring you don’t hurt or break the trust and respect you have worked hard to build with your 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:
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Legal risks vs human

What Are The Legal Risks Of Choosing A ‘Humane’ Path When Managing Performance Of Someone With A Mental Health Problem?

Legal risks vs humanI recently presented as a speaker at an ‘Employment Law for HR Managers’ Masterclass, held in Sydney. It was quite an interesting experience. First, because the focus was on employment law, whereas my specialty as a psychologist is in mental health, and also because I was engaged as a panelist, alongside three lawyers. It did make sense though – they were looking for the ‘human’ angle, wanting to balance legal considerations with what is best for the person experiencing mental health problems.

So that presented the first challenge – the legally ‘right’ thing to do is so often pitted against the morally ‘right’ thing, or at least the ‘nice’, person centred way of doing things. In fact, one of the questions asked directly reflected this:

“What are the legal risks of choosing a ‘humane’ path, when managing the performance of someone with a mental health problem?”

At that moment I thought one of the lawyers in the room was going to stand up and say “I object your honour, that question is leading the witness!” It was, after all, a leading question that makes the assumption that the humane approach may be somewhat riskier than the non-humane approach. But no, no one objected. Shame. In my opinion, a humane path reduces the legal risks, not increases it!

And let me back that up with evidence. Studies from the medical field show that patients are more likely to sue their doctor, even if the doctor didn’t actually do anything technically wrong, if their bedside manner was poor. And, on the flip side, people are less likely to sue a doctor who did make a clinical mistake, if they had a good bedside manner, showed respect, and listened to the person’s concerns. It seems we just don’t want to take legal action if the person was ‘nice!’.

Apply this back in the workplace to performance management. A ‘humane path’, a path which is compassionate towards the person, is much less likely to end in legal problems,.

But what this question reveals to me, and what became apparent at the masterclass, was that we seem to have different ideas about what a humane path looks like.

There was an underlying assumption that a humane path meant not following through on the performance management process, stalling and delaying taking any action or follow through. It’s almost as if ‘humane’ was akin to not upsetting the person at all.

I would argue that that is actually not very humane at all. You see, sometimes as managers, we think, if we’re a bit more lenient, or we make allowances for the person, they’ll appreciate it and we won’t have to face a disgruntled employee. Now I’m all for having flexibility. Flexibility is key, but when we’re talking about things which really bend the line on what’s acceptable, that’s something else. And in fact, what happens when you deviate from the agreed fair performance management process, is that it creates all sorts of confusion for the person. When a person is experiencing a mental health problem, often it can be really hard to think clearly, or to remember details, people describe it like a ‘fog’ in their thinking. That’s just one of the reasons why, for their sake, it is really important to stick to the process. Not only that, but think about what messages are being sent to the rest of the team by accepting poor behaviour or performance from one person? Here’s just a few ideas: compassion is compromise, the leader shows favouritism, lower standards are ok, the leader is weak and can’t stick to what they said, maybe if I acted like that… you see where I’m headed. What about the message being sent to the person? The person could be hearing a number of things: ie ‘if you are anxious, depressed or stressed, you can’t cope with the job’

And yes, sometimes, in extreme cases, sticking to process will mean eventually letting a person go. If they are simply not able to perform the inherent requirements of the job, or they consistently breach conduct requirements, then it can be the best thing for everyone – the business of course, but also for them, to be let go. I’ve seen way too many organisations hold jobs open for people for way too long. They’re trying to be kind, but in fact the person would be much better off in a completely different field or industry.

So what does ‘humane’ mean then? It means being compassionate in your communication towards the person, while you stick to the process! It means respecting the person, the human, even if you don’t respect their behaviour. It means allowing them dignity through the process and ensuring the process is dignified. And THAT can actually be life changing for people.

Author: Emi Golding
Emi-Golding-blog-imageEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

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