If you’re in a team leadership or management position, it’s very likely someone in your team will experience some mental health challenges.
It’s not your role to be your employees’ psychologist, however it is your role to stick within your capabilities and responsibilities and support them. Having honest conversations about their work, how they’re coping and where they can find further support is vital – and you’re in exactly the right position to notice when your staff are experiencing mental health difficulties.
“Leaders are beginning to understand that human performance is about our ability to apply our talents, and the way you choose to behave determines how effectively you apply those capabilities,” says human resources advisor Karen Gately. “That behavioural choice can be profoundly impacted by your mental wellbeing, so it’s important for leaders to understand that the observations they make about people’s behaviour makes them the most likely to recognise when things are not right.”
As managers, however, you not only have to look out for others – you need to look after your own wellbeing too.
Use your position to create positive change
As a manager, you’re in the unique position of being able to drive your workplace culture. Think about how you can make that culture one that supports the mental health of you, your management colleagues and your staff, and put some actions in place. “It all begins with a workplace culture that’s based on respect and compassion,” says Gately.
You’re aware of your legislative requirements to make your workplace safe, but have you taken mental health aspects into consideration? And have you included yourself in that equation? “You need to create an environment that’s safe both physically and mentally, not just for your staff but also for yourself,” advises Gately.
Make your own wellbeing a priority
When you listen to the safety briefing on an aeroplane, you’ll notice the importance of helping yourself before you assist others is always emphasised. It’s the same in the workplace: you can’t support others if you haven’t looked after yourself.
“Make the strength of your spirit a priority,” says Gately. “That means safeguarding against typical issues in the workplace, such as burnout, and stress management needs to be a daily priority for leaders.”
Your stress release might include taking regular breaks during working hours or incorporating some daily activity with things like walking meetings. Another aspect to your stress management toolkit is what you do after hours, and switching off to spend time with family and friends, do hobbies and practise mindfulness or meditation are some small changes that can make your mental wellbeing a priority.
SuperFriend provides training and ideas for managers’ mental health and self-care in their Mental Health and Wellbeing Training.
Manage your career while looking after your mental health
“Your ability to handle stress and perform in challenging circumstances is often what your performance is measured on, so a lot of managers are hesitant to put their hand up and say they’re struggling,” Gately explains. “But that courage and willingness to ask for help when you need it is important. You need to lead by example. To say to your staff that it’s okay to ask for support and then not do it yourself is a problem.”
Myths around mental health do still exist, however there’s only one way to reduce these. Gately says: “Stigma in business is a major issue, but as leaders you need to make this okay. If you believe it’s career limiting for people to do so, then no one in your organisation is going to do it.”
Remember, you’re not infallible. “The managers in an organisation are human as well, and are just as susceptible to having these challenges,” Gately says.