Today, as many of you know, is World Mental Health Day, a day to talk about mental health issues to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma surrounding what is really a common occurrence. Even in the workplace.
This is a real problem, our C-Level folks think they are addressing the issues of burnout, mental health, etc. because they’ve adopted an employee assistance program and instructed their people managers to be concerned about mental health issues, but they’ve not actually given them any training in how to do that. That’s a real problem and puts those managers in a real bind. How do they support the people who report to them, when no one has taught them appropriate ways to do that?
The one that gives me pause is the last bullet, but not because leaders shouldn’t have that knowledge, but more because human nature tells me that is the one most likely to be misused and create really uncomfortable situations. There’s a very fine line between being aware of signs of someone struggling and diagnosis. I absolutely do not want anyone in the workplace diagnosing people. Watch out for signs of stress and ways you can support the folks who work for you proactively? Sure. Decide for yourself that they have depression, or should be referred to an Employee Assistance Program? Not so much.
But, here’s the thing I will fully admit when saying this. Avoiding this type of behavior is absolutely something that solid mental health training should be a part of. I’ve heard far too many instances lately where organizations are reading a lot about mental health, and burnout, in the workplace and then dispatch their managers to have conversations with their teams about it, and zero training.
Those conversations are dangerous. You have to enable your leaders to go into those conversations with some education and expertise on the subject Just telling them to go and have the conversations without getting them up to speed on how to do so, creates a situation that is likely to end up with some very alienated employees.
It’s cool if your company wants to provide an assistance program or pay for access to an app that will help with meditation, etc. Good for them. But, if the source of your mental health issues is the day-to-day stress of working in an understaffed, toxic, environment, for far less money than you’re worth, and they won’t address that? How much do they really care?
Fixing that is going to require a lot more, as the article below points out. How many organizations are willing to make those kinds of changes?
We’ve been talking about making the workplace “safe” for a number of years now. First, there were the obvious, physical safety issues, and then the focus on sexual harassment, then on to bullying, and diversity. It’s important. You simply don’t get the best results from employees who don’t feel safe.
And yet, in a time when there is an increasing number of employees dealing with mental health issues, we also need to consider what we do to make sure they feel safe as well, for the same reasons. People who don’t feel safe, will not speak up, will not bring their best work to the table, and might just be looking for a safer work environment.
You do see the problem here, right? As an employee, great that there’s a webinar planned on stress management, but if I now have to work an hour later that day in order to attend the webinar, it’s not helping. Lots of HR departments are making tools available, but managers are still expecting the same amount of work, with the same crazy deadlines and expectations, from a likely short-staffed team, so who has time to use them?
So they don’t help. Not because they aren’t helpful, but because you’ve made self-care and wellbeing yet another thing for your employees to do.
Employee burnout does not exist solely because your employees haven’t figured out how to meditate. It’s systemic to our way of doing business. Unless that changes, we’re just rearranging deck chairs.