Monthly Archives: October 2016

1-Million-Payout

$1 Mil Payout For Bullying & Harassment At Work – Brace Yourselves

1 Million PayoutA court recently awarded $1 million to a NSW woman who was bullied in the workplace. That’s the largest amount we’ve ever heard of for workplace bullying. The Courts are getting serious!

It just goes to prove how serious the courts are getting about bullying and harassment in the workplace. If this is anything to go by, we expect to see more and more cases like this in the near future.

When it comes to managing employees, this is where things can get really tricky. There are a couple of situations which can occur when it comes to bullying and mental health:

    1. The person does not have any mental health problem, but the bullying causes them to become unwell.
    2. The person has an underlying mental health problem that they may not even know about, which becomes exacerbated when faced with a bullying situation.
    3. The person has a diagnosed mental health problem, which is made worse by bullying.

Read more on workplace bullying…


The other thing to consider as a manager though, is that a person in one of the last two groups (and that’s a good percentage of people) is more likely to feel bullied and harassed in general.

Generally speaking, people with mental health problems can have a heightened sensitivity to the interpersonal dynamics at play in a workplace (or any other social environment for that matter). We sometimes say they have a good ‘bullshit detector’. They are often more aware of the subtle forms of bullying and harassment that often fly under the radar, or that other people might not notice or have become accustomed to.

On the plus side, this means they can call out the passive-aggressive bullies who are subtly creating nasty working environments for everyone. As managers, you want someone to flag those issues before they get worse, so you can address it. But on the down side, this can mean that sometimes that person may be more likely to feel bullied even when that is not what’s happening.

Clearly, that’s not what happened in this case, but it seems to be a common question that arises in many of our courses.

So what can you do as a manager to protect all your staff, and your organisation? Here are a couple of things:

    1. Set very clear expectations and standards for all employees, but especially for managers as to what is appropriate behaviour.
    2. Train your managers in management! – skills like performance management, delivering feedback, supervision or mentoring skills, how to have difficult conversations, and managing workplace mental health, to name a few.
    3. Nurture a mentally healthy culture, a workplace where people are happy to be.
    4. Build good relationships with your staff. You want them to feel comfortable to talk to you early if an issue such as this arises, so you can step in and act quickly before it gets out of hand.
    5. Build the resilience and emotional stamina of your staff. Equip them with tools to stay strong, so that in the case a bully does appear, they are better able to cope, and take appropriate action.

There’s one last thing I want to mention in regards to this article and that is, the reference to a psychological condition as a ‘permanent disability’. There is a huge body of evidence in mental health that shows it does not have to be a permanent illness. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. The majority of people can and do recover, given the right support. I certainly hope the lady in this article does find the right help for her, although is seems than in her case, it’s going to be a tough road ahead.

Btw, we upskill managers on what to do and how to do it, and more, at our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders course. Check it out and see if it’s for you

Read the original article here: http://finance.nine.com.au/2016/10/25/09/29/nsw-worker-wins-1-million-for-workplace-bullying

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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Man-thinking

Why do many managers shy away from mental health at work?

Managers shy awayIt’s hard being a manager. Often, it can feel like you’re the meat in the sandwich, between the needs of the employees and the needs of the Senior Directors or Board. But when it comes to mental health, taking action can have a positive effect for both parties. And it’s great for business! So why do so many managers get stuck – why do they shy away from addressing workplace mental health? Here are just some of the reasons:
Will this look like harassment?

    For managers who do decide to wade into a mental health issue, a real concern is how the employee will react. What if the employee takes exception to the line of questioning? What if they feel so put out that they lodge a formal complaint against the manager for harassment? This is a valid concern, as they’re likely to be dealing with a person in a heightened state of sensitivity, with many people with a mental health issue reporting that they feel bullied or harassed more often. For a manager, having a workplace harassment or bullying judgement go against them has serious consequences: the organisation may be liable for damages, the manager themselves may be personally liable. And it can seriously curtail that manager’s confidence and ability to manage performance thereafter. Once bitten, twice shy.

Read more on workplace mental health & wellbeing…


What if I make it worse?

    In reality (and we’ll discuss this later) the risk of a successful harassment or bullying claim being brought against a manager for addressing a mental health concern is very low, when done properly. And therein lies a challenge: ‘properly’. Many managers who are genuinely concerned about an employee’s mental health will avoid addressing it for fear of doing something that makes things worse. ‘What if I say the wrong thing?’, ‘What if I embarrass them?’, ‘Should I just report it to someone?’, are all common questions that go through a manager’s head. These are valid questions by the way – managing a mental health issue in a team does take a set of skills. The reason most managers don’t feel confident with this stuff is that they’ve never been taught the skills. In no business degree, MBA or even HR qualification that I know of are mental health management skills taught. Managers are really left to rely on their own experience and their emotional intelligence to deal with these situations. And in allowing that to happen, frankly, we are letting our managers down.

I really don’t have time for this.

    We don’t have to look far to realise that managers across the country are overworked. I don’t mean in a ‘we just say we’re busy so people think we’re useful’ kind of way – I mean many of our organisations are chronically under resourced. The downsizing and delayering of middle management in the late 80s and early 90s was taken too far. To use a medical analogy, companies went beyond ‘cutting out the fat’ and have cut out some of the minor muscle groups. Line and middle managers in particular are seeing their workloads and responsibilities grow for little to no extra resources or compensation as organisations downsize and rationalise. Many managers simply do not have the headspace or the energy to involve themselves in the mental health of their employees – they’re flat out managing their own.

As you can see, these are genuine considerations that need to be addressed if a workplace mental health strategy is to be effective. And they all can be addressed by educating managers about the need to (and benefits of) managing mental health effectively, but also to equip them with real and practical skills to do it right, so they are not at risk of a harassment claim, and so that they don’t make it worse.

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:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Pillar-6 Understanding Complexity

Building a Mentally Wealthy Workplace: 6th Pillar

I was chatting about life and medicine with an experienced doctor recently and he looked at me intently and said ‘you know what Peter? Wherever there is a human being there is a variable. We never have any certainty. Anything can happen’ He was talking about medicine specifically but doesn’t this also apply to any other area of life? Organisations need to understand this if they are to respond appropriately to mental health problems. How do they do that?

When an organisation makes informed responses, as opposed to knee-jerk, simplistic actions, it demonstrates the principle of ‘understanding complexity’.

People are complex. That much is obvious. But it’s depressing how quick people are to label someone who is different to them. My wife loves structure: a room, computer, a desk, somewhere to focus and crank stuff out. But to me, just talking about it… ugh. Give me a laptop at the beach, anytime, or a coffee shop, and then my mind starts flowing. To me, I couldn’t imagine putting someone at a desk and asking them to sit there for eight hours a day – surely that would be torture or they must be incredibly dull and lacking creativity. While to someone like Emi, wanting to take a laptop to the beach looks like some sort of weird learning disorder / ADD thing, lack of commitment, or simply ‘taking the piss’. And therefore we’d better put some controls in place to make sure they work and act how I think they should. That control rankles and it forces the person to perform from a position of weakness, not in a way that amplifies their talents. This is where we need to examine ourselves and say, “Are we unfairly judging someone because they are different? Is there a mental health disorder here, or a killer hidden talent?

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Remember the canary. What at first instance may look like a weakness, may in fact be a sign of strength.

We are starting to see organisations respond to the mental health challenges in our workplaces. You can see it in initiatives designed to build awareness, like ‘R U OK?Day’. Building awareness is a good first step, but what happens when you ask someone, ‘are you ok?’, and the answer is ‘No.’ Awareness is powerful, but without knowing what to do next, it’s next to useless.


Read about all the 7 Pillars of Mentally Healthy Workplace…


I’ve often reflected on the role of the manager being ‘to bring certainty and structure to unstructured situations.’ That’s a tough job. We are surrounded by unstructured situations. It’s called life. I think it was John Lennon that said, ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans’. We can expect things not to go exactly to plan. And when things don’t go to plan, managers like to have a process for figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it. That’s smart! Unfortunately people are incredibly complex. They have different goals and values. Different work styles and preferences. Different belief structures. And events affect them differently. There is no manual for ‘fixing’ a mental health problem – only a range of approaches you can try, some of which seem to work better than others. Would you believe the professionals still disagree about what mental illness even is? They argue amongst themselves and they write long, impressive papers about it, but in the end, there isn’t a consensus.

The point I’m trying to make is that, for a manager, there isn’t much to be gained by being able to diagnose a mental illness and prescribe a treatment plan. It’s not your job to do so. But by recognising that people and situations are complex, taking a step back, and coming at the problem with an enquiring mind, and an intention to help the individual, you can achieve a lot.

Take care, and talk soon.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter 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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