For many staff these days, there is no such thing as a lunch-break, e-mails come in at all times of the day and night and the laptop is routinely packed along with the holiday suitcases. The impact of this ‘always-on’ culture and the pressures of work on staff are often avoided by managers unable to deal with the mental health issues that this environment can create. The ultimate aim is to develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged and where support and respect are the norm. Yet, this is can be a huge challenge for many organisations where managers are under stress themselves to deliver against challenging targets, and, where it is often easier to bury heads in the sand.
There is a great deal that we can learn from NLP that gives us the tools to stop avoiding and begin dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. Whilst there is no expectation to turn all managers into therapists there is an expectation that managers know how to build rapport with their staff, have good emotional intelligence, engage in regular contact and understand how to ask the right questions when they do. Regular communication with staff can head off the majority of problems early on.
Here are some specific ideas:
- – Watch out for changes in an employee’s usual behaviour – things like changes in punctuality (either arriving earlier or coming in later), poorer performance, tiredness, increased sickness – can all be signs that something is wrong.
- – Use regular work planning sessions like one to ones, informal chats about progress etc to talk about any issues an employee maybe having. And, whatever your workload, make time for your staff as this is the easiest way to head off problems early on. There is no excuse for abandoning one to ones when the going gets tough as this will cause you much more serious issues in the longer-term.
- – Have a conversation in a private space where the employee feels comfortable. Use open questions to allow the employee maximum opportunity to express concerns in their own way. For example, ‘how are you doing at the moment’. And, if you do need to explore performance issue do this in an open, exploratory and non-judgemental way. For example, ‘I have noticed that you have been arriving late recently and wondered if there is a problem’’.
- – Everyone has a different model of the world and will experience issues in a variety of ways. Don’t assume that work pressures affect staff in the same way or that they will need the same level of support from you. Be flexible and make adjustments if a person is not coping until they have recovered.
- – Ensure that your conversations are positive and supportive – explore the issues and how you can help as opposed to blame and punishment.
- – Plan for regular reviews and keep asking for feedback as to whether the strategies are working.