The surprising mental health dividend of a great manager

08 May 2017

Take a minute to think about the best manager you’ve had in your career. No doubt this person helped you to be your best at work, achieve your potential and bolstered your motivation to do the job.

Traditionally, leaders have focused on the physical health and safety of employee wellbeing. However evidence now clearly indicates that promoting employee mental wellbeing is key to sustaining a productive workforce.

The latest Work in Progress report, released by SuperFriend, includes findings from 1,000 Australian workers surveyed about the current state of mental wellbeing in their workplace.  It identifies the critical role managers play in bolstering the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

The report findings have shown that while investing in formal policies and support programs for mental health at work, the wellbeing of individual workers is more closely connected to their relationship with their supervisor and experience in being managed. The survey has shown that there are five key characteristics of a great manager who promotes the mental wellbeing of their staff. These are:

  • Civility
  • Accessibility
  • Guidance
  • Feedback
  • Flexibility


Thriving organisations create a culture of respect through observable cultural norms, such as greeting each other in the morning, smiling, making eye contact and saying ‘good morning’ Managers are key to workplace norms taking root because they can influence the behavioural cues of their teams. These small changes can have a big effect on the organisation when everyone practices being civil.  However only two in five survey respondents reported seeing these common courtesies regularly shown in their workplace.


Great managers make time for their staff. They are available to their staff and are willing to help and offer advice. One in three respondents reported that their managers are accessible when they need them and will listen.


One of the most critical drivers of employee mental wellbeing is job control. Without clear guidance and support, workers can lack clarity about how to meet the expectations of their boss. This can cause high levels of stress. Results from the Work in Progress survey found that only one in four respondents reported their manager provided guidance on what’s expected of them at work.


Everyone loves a little recognition and feedback, don’t they? That’s because most of us don’t go to work simply for the money. We like the recognition from our manager or peers when we’ve done something well. We also need feedback on our progress to achieving tasks and goals to ensure we feel we are meeting the expectations of our role. Only one in four respondents reported that their manager provided regular feedback to help them improve their performance.


One of the most significant stressors in today’s workplace is the conflict we experience between work commitments and family or personal responsibilities. When we experience pressures in our personal life, a manager who understands the need for flexibility in work hours or work from home opportunities can make an enormous boost to our wellbeing. Only one in three respondents reported their manager facilitated flexible working to meet the needs of employees.

The take away

If you are a manager who would like to get the best out of your employees, think about these five factors and how you can incorporate them into your role to boost and support your workers to achieve their best.

To learn more

Download the latest Work In Progress report to learn more about the indicators of a mentally healthy workplace

SuperFriend provides Mental Health and Wellbeing Training to equip staff with the confidence, skills, strategies, and tools to ensure they are supported, safe and productive at work.

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