Monthly Archives: December 2016

shit-happens-in workplace

Beat Post Holiday Blues With These 5 Steps

Beat-Post-Holiday-BluesThe holidays can be hectic. And, since even positive stress is still stress, they can wear people out. Even if the people on your team had only positive experiences throughout the holiday season, heading back to work afterward can leave everyone feeling let down. Productivity and mental health in the office can both suffer as a result.

How Can You Tell People Have the Holiday Blues?

It’s not as simple as someone walking around with a glum look on their face. Most of us almost automatically keep a positive or at least neutral demeanor at work, even if we’re not really feeling it. Instead, you may see post-holiday depression manifest in other ways.
Sometimes, someone who usually does stellar work will turn in stuff that just meets the minimum requirements. Others may take longer than usual to get things done. Still others may avoid chatting, come in late or call in sick more often.

No matter how people are showing that they are in a slump, you as their manager can help them turn it around to make things more positive going into the new year.


Read more on holiday stress and wellbeing…


How to Battle the Blues

Putting a few policies and actions in place to start can get people out of a funk and back to being engaged and content at work. A few things that can help battle workplace depression:

1. Leave the out-of-town messages on.

When people come back to the office after a trip or a few days off for the holiday, let them know it is okay to keep their away messages on on their email and voicemail for another day or two. This gives them breathing room to catch back up with work and to get back into their routine before they are crushed with new incoming messages.

2. Show empathy.

Let people know that it’s okay for them to feel down in the wake of the holidays. Instead of worrying about wallowing, recognize that expressing emotions allows you to properly process them so that you can move on and get healthy. If you are feeling a bit of post-holiday workplace depression yourself, confide in your team members. They need to see that you trust them enough to express emotions to them and that you understand what they are feeling, too.

3. Cut everyone a little slack.

It’s perfectly normal for people to work a little slower or to make a few mistakes when they are just getting back from the holiday festivities. Be understanding when it happens. If people are feeling high stress because they are getting called out on mistakes, that will only multiple issues and make them last longer. In fact, it makes sense to lower goals for this time of year so that you account for time people spend out of the office as well as the time it takes to get them back into the groove.

4. Make healthy drinks and snacks available.

We all overindulge over the holidays. Whether it’s a bit too much to drink or suffering the effects of rich meal after rich meal, it doesn’t leave us feeling our best. Stock the break room with bottled water, seltzer, fruit and whole grain snack bars. People will appreciate the chance to keep themselves on post-holiday diets and to be able to forge healthy habits in the new year.

5. Make it possible for people to get out of work early.

When you’ve just spent a couple weeks at the beach or camping in the great outdoors, it can be hard to adjust to 10 hours a day in an airconditioned box, and an hour or two of public transport either side. If it is possible to offer a half-day here and there or stop work an hour early now and then, consider adding it. People will be grateful for both the extra free time and for the chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

The good news is that, after a while, people fall back into their normal routines. By making the transition back into work after the holidays easier, you can help people get back to normal faster and enjoy a healthier and more productive workplace.

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:
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Toxic-Workplace

5 Signs You Might Have a Toxic Culture

toxic-workplace-cultureA toxic environment is a disease to any business. Unhappy people are demotivated and easily drawn out of the business, which, depending on the industry, can lead to the business having a bad reputation amongst potential employees. So not only is it important that your business doesn’t have a toxic culture, it’s also imperative to know the symptoms that indicate you might and what you can do to stop the disease from spreading. Here are the five most obvious symptoms and what you can do to remedy them:

Dysfunctional relationships among staff.

Signs of infection:

  • Cliquishness
  • Favouritism
  • Lack of communication
  • Grudge-holding
  • Staff are pitted against each other

Remedy:

Team bonding, as clichéd as it sounds, should never be underestimated. Friday afternoon drinks and other social events such as Christmas parties or a quarterly dinner, with 100% inclusion, will work wonders with turning your bitter group of individuals into a team. To further reinforce this, set team based rewards and incentives rather than individual ones. This stops team members feeling like the person next to them is their rival and not their teammate.


Your people feel they have a lack of work-home balance.

Signs of infection:

Remedy:

Be mindful of the mental health of your staff. Assure them it is your number 1 priority. Be a trusted rock for your staff. If they are having troubles in their personal life, be someone understanding that they can talk to, and if they need it, allow them the time away from work to tend to their personal needs. A happy team member is a lot more effective in an 8-hour day than a miserable one is in a 12 or 15-hour one.


Low morale.

Signs of infection:

  • People are unmotivated
  • People appear downtrodden and frustrated
  • People openly talk about not wanting to be there

Remedy:

Having a high morale will go a long way to ensuring you do not have a toxic work culture. Managing your people with a foundation of positive reinforcement, even when critiquing their performance, is pivotal to curing low morale. Nobody wants to be told they aren’t good enough or aren’t trying hard enough. “Good job” goes a long way in the good times. “We are doing great and will get through this” goes even further in the hard times. Also, be sure to trust your people. Micro-managing them will breed frustration and annoyance among your staff: trust that they know how to do their job and if and when they could do it better, give them feedback.


High turnover of staff.

Signs of infection:

  • New people don’t stay very long
  • You are constantly recruiting and training new employees

Remedy:

High staff turnover is the most obvious sign that something isn’t right in your business. Unfortunately, the reasons for it can be multi layered. It could be due to any of the other symptoms mentioned. To cure this, you must cure the other symptoms because constantly having to hire and bed in new staff will slow your  progress and cost you a lot of money. Whereas a happy, experienced team who know the business will get more done, better and faster.


(Uh oh) You.

Signs of infection:

  • You set unrealistic expectations of your staff
  • You are cold and unsympathetic
  • You do not listen to your staff
  • You instil fear in your staff
  • You are hypocritical
  • You scapegoat individuals

Remedy:

Whoa there! That comes off seriously judge-y doesn’t it? I firmly believe that as leaders, we are doing the best we can, with the resources we have.  But this doesn’t stop employees in a toxic culture thinking (even saying) things like this about you.  Being a strong leader, who makes decisions and manages their staff from a place of positivity and genuine care, will cure every symptom of a toxic culture that you have. Take the steps to build and nurture your people into a team who work for one another to achieve their goals. Make your staff feel wanted and appreciated through positive reinforcement. Make them stay because they are loyal to you, their team members and the work culture you have built.

Toxic cultures are nasty places to be.  But as a leader, wouldn’t you like to be part of the clean up crew?

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

silent-scream

Office Rage: Handling Anger in the Workplace

Anger managementAnger. Everyone feels it at some stage in their lives. Putting a person – any person – in the pressure cooker that is the work place for a period of time and they are guaranteed to get angry at some point. That includes you, the manager, as well. A strong leader knows how to identify anger within themselves and others and knows what steps to take in order to rectify the situation.

As mentioned, there are two types of anger in the work place: yours and that of your people, each with their own two separate sub-types, overt and covert anger. Overt anger is visible and easy to spot, both within yourself and your people. It is out in the open, most likely used in a confrontation.


Read more on mental health and wellbeing…


Covert anger is the anger that nobody was able to spot in time and became overt anger. This is the one to look out for. It is annoyance, irritation or passive aggression. Feelings we have all been told not to show, to grin and bear, to the point where sometimes, we don’t even notice they are there. But, they still manifest in a variety of different ways:

    • Procrastination
    • Perpetual or habitual lateness
    • A liking for sadistic or ironic humour
    • Sarcasm or cynicism
    • Frequent sighing
    • Clenching of fists or jaws
    • Facial tics
    • Passive aggressiveness

If you’ve noticed any of these within a member of your team, you will want to subtly investigate the cause so you can decide what to do next.

The best way to approach this is by being casual. Instead of pulling the person into your office for a chat, which may only exacerbate the situation, align your lunch with theirs, ask them about their day, their lives. Allow them to open up to you. If it is an issue at work, work with them to address it.

If it is an issue at home, be patient with them and allow them time to sort it out, and of course, offer your support if you can and it is appropriate. For anybody, having a manager that they can confide in and is understanding is of great comfort. It makes it much easier for them to “leave it at the door.”

And the same applies to you, the manager too. If you notice these feelings or signs, talk to someone about them, even if it is a member of your staff (showing that you trust them helps build their trust in you). It is important not to let this anger bubble under the surface, because it will eventually explode and either you or a member of your staff to will find themselves in a very compromising situation.

All overt anger was once covert anger. However, the length of time it has been bubbling under the surface can vary. It can be built up over weeks or months, or it can boil over in a matter of minutes. If confronted with this sort of anger in a member of your staff, it is important to remove them from the situation immediately. Again, taking them to the intimidating confines of your office for a chat has potential to make matters worse, therefore, it is best to take them for a walk or a coffee and talk to them calmly about what is making them feel this way.

Getting angry yourself will only make matters worse.

It is important to be a calming influence. Again, this is done by showing patience and care. Having a calm, rational and friendly chat with the employee will allow them to open up and tell you their grievances in order for you to help resolve them.

If you find these feelings boiling over within yourself, it is important to remove yourself from the situation, compose and control yourself and let the initial anger dissipate before you confront the source. This is especially important if the source of your anger is a member of your team. Taking a breather, whether it be for 5 minutes or leaving it for the next day is invaluable as it will allow you to confront the situation calmly, rationally and maturely – ensuring you don’t hurt or break the trust and respect you have worked hard to build with your team.

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

Workplace-Bullying

Am I Leading or Bullying?

workplace-bullyingWe know the script. Hard ass movie general breaks all the rules, saves world, emerges a hero. Visionary CEO fires people if they can’t describe the value they add to the company within the space of a lift ride, creates fanatical product following, investors rejoice. Political leader promises to ‘drain swamp’, lies repeatedly, maintains multiple conflicts of interest, but that’s ok because we need a guy who’s going to shake things up.

But what lies beneath the gloss and spin of these stories? Does the need to ‘make big change’ excuse treating people with less respect than they deserve? Is it in fact required?

A strong leader recognises that every one of their people are different; they apply that in their interactions with them, and are respected for it. A bully, by contrast, intimidates, threatens and singles out employees. They are feared – not respected – and there is a big difference.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who built the club into one of the true commercial juggernauts of our time over an unparalleled 26-year reign, and who has advised the likes of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (and will be quoted more than once in this post) sums this up perfectly:

“You can’t aspire to be loved, because that isn’t going to happen, nor do you want people to be frightened of you. Stay somewhere in the middle and have them respect and trust and see you as fair.”

So, what makes a strong leader? How can he or she learn who their employees are, how to lead them, motivate them and keep them on course without sacrificing the three pillars of respect, trust and fairness?


Read more on workplace bullying…


The answers to these questions are slightly more complex. A strong leader observes his or her people and learns about what kind of person they are: What are their habits? How do they express enthusiasm? And if their habits break or their enthusiasm dips, how can you help them get back to their best? This is the essence of leadership: managing people as individuals, and recognising that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

Secondly, a strong leader positively reinforces their people. To again quote Sir Alex:

“No one likes to be criticised. Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead. For a player – for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done.’”

And thirdly, a strong leader never holds a grudge. If performance or behaviour dips outside the bounds, the issue is addressed promptly and that is the end of it. People should never be made to feel uncomfortable in their workplace, and having a lengthy punishment hanging over them does not allow them that comfort and it ultimately shatters the pillars of respect, trust and fairness that a strong leader builds his or her foundations on.

So, if that is a strong leader, what makes a bully?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by anyone in the workplace on another team member. For a manager, this means while they can reprimand, demote or terminate a staff member’s employment, they cannot do anything that could be viewed as abuse. This includes:

  • Intimidation
  • Making a staff member feel less important and undervalued
  • Giving pointless tasks to staff that has nothing to do with their job or tasks that are impossible for the staff member to complete
  • Deliberately changing rostered hours or work schedule to make life difficult
  • Withholding information pertinent for a task to be completed properly
  • Forcing a staff member to be excluded from their team mates or taking part in activities that relates to their work
  • Playing mind games or other types of psychological harassment

Managers who do this are not strong leaders. They are bullies.

And finally, what makes a victim? A victim of workplace bullying is not always an easy spot. However, there are signs, that if noticed should set off alarm bells in the mind of their employer. These include:

  • If they are less active or successful at work
  • If they are less confident in themselves or their work
  • Feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Their lives outside of work are affected by their work
  • Wanting to stay away from work
  • Feeling they can’t trust their employer or the people they work with
  • Have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches and sleep problems

It is important to note that bullying does not always come from the leaders in the workplace, it can come from anywhere in the business. A strong leader recognises and acts upon this swiftly and accordingly, because a happy and harmonious workplace is a successful workplace.

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

Rise-of-the-robots

The Rise Of The Robots

How Is Artificial Intelligence Impacting Our Mental Health?

Rise of the robotsIf you are at all up to date about what’s happening in the world of technology, you know AI (that’s Artificial Intelligence) is here and about to take over a large proportion of jobs that to date, only humans have been able to do. This is not future stuff, this is NOW stuff.

Über has already deployed driverless cars and trucks with success. Google has been experimenting with driverless cars for years. So, it begs the question: What will happen to all our Über drivers, truck drivers and taxi drivers? And this is only the beginning. Just this week, the first robo-lawyer was deployed also. Now you can get legal advice from a machine. Google, Microsoft and others are spending billions in AI. And this is only what we are aware of.

If drivers, and lawyers, can be replaced by machines with highly sophisticated algorithms, and photographic memory, very similar to what has already happened to toll booth operators, who else can, and will, be replaced?

As Elon Musk recently said,

“humans need to adapt or risk becoming house cats for highly intelligent robots”

The common questions, are – what will happen to all these people looking for jobs? What will happen to the economy? etc…But, I ask another question, ‘What’s going to happen to humanity as we enter a world void of enough work? Traditionally, idle hands has meant an existential crisis in and of its own. But as we enter a new way of interacting and being in the world, it’s my bold prediction that this state of affairs will precipitate an existential crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Yes, some people point to the industrial revolution, but our looming revolution will make that pale in comparison.


Read more on mental health and wellbeing…


Remember: distressed people are dominated by fear. They are negative, create conflict, lash out, get depressed & suicidal and try to control everyone else as a way to get control over their own lives.

“When one of us is distressed, we all pay for it. It’s not a problem you can shift somewhere else.”

We can’t avoid it. So, what can we do to face, and survive, this pending crisis? Most people are not well equipped for change and neither are the businesses they work in. But, for those of you listening and paying attention, there are some things we can get started to minimise the impact:

1 – Ensure the AI conversation includes the existential conversation. So far, the many directors and CEOs I’ve talked to, have recoiled shyly, confused, at the introduction of a topic they are ill prepared to handle both personally and as business leaders

2 – Start introducing ethical long term approaches to downsizing knowing that downsizing is coming. This includes preparing people, as much as possible, for the coming change. Talk to your people about AI and new technologies and their impact on business and how you can face it together. This will give you the chance to come up with some lateral creative solutions.

3 – Take responsibility and take action. Bring in experts to help you with the transition. Be smart and allocate significant resources to it. This is a problem that’s not going away, but that you CAN prepare for.

“By the way, this is a good time to shine as leaders and do the right thing – both for your business and your people”

Good luck 🙂

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

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