Category Archives: Education


Pandemic of workplace conflict

Are toilet rolls being thrown around at work? Possible pandemic of workplace conflict and how to keep your workplace out of trouble!

Many things don’t make sense right now. Seemingly overnight, our lives have changed globally. Fights in supermarkets over toilet paper show the emotional state people are reaching and while toilet paper hoarding is confusing for most of us, it serves as a signal that during this highly uncertain times, people’s stress tolerance level has varying breaking points and can lead to behaviour that is out of character.

In our workplaces, many of us still have questions about what it all exactly means for us today, what will change tomorrow and what impact will this have for us long term. The gravity of these unanswerable questions leads to the inevitable of our tolerance breaking and people behaving in ways that are out of step with their “normal” state.

Pandemic of workplace conflict

Adding to impact is the shift to isolated working. For most managers, this is completely foreign territory and creating new problems and conflicts.

Traditional change management isn’t going to fly, because we haven’t got time before a disaster could inadvertently appear in your organisation or team.

What are we seeing?

interMEDIATE Dispute Management is a business who deals with workplace issues and provides training to prevent them. I have had managers calling me seeking advice on a range of issues relating to coronavirus that could have been avoided. For example:

  • Disagreements about aspects of the coronavirus itself, one of them ending with a barrage of one yelling at their colleague, knocking everything off their desk and storming off (they are friends).
  • Numerous reports of discussions and judgement getting out of hand about the level of panic and blaming others for being too cautious or not enough.
  • Insensitive comments, jokes or social media clips and pictures being sent around via email or being shown on video link meetings. One explanation was that the employee felt more casual in their home environment and it lead to more a loose conversation.
  • People feeling bullied (perhaps unintentionally) by not being invited to meetings or having the information they need to do their job
  • Reports of managers who are micro-managing remote workers because they don’t trust that people are necessarily doing what they say they are doing.

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When I asked them about what they had done, it was obvious that because they hadn’t prepared for this, their organisation had legitimately been dealing with bigger issues (like keeping the company operational) and had no specific strategy for it. Continuing without a plan will lead to big problems such as:

  • bullying and harassment claims
  • serious conflicts (violent and non violent)
  • terminations due to breaches of code of conduct
  • unexplainable resignations, which can turn into costly litigation claims down the track

I then told them the good news, that if your business got serious about this now, you can be as prepared as possible to prevent, identify and manage bullying and harassment and unhealthy conflict. Here are some practical tips on how to avoid sitting at the mediation table in 6-12 months time over something that was easily avoided.

  1. Reminder to all employees of the company’s policies against bullying and harassment

At minimum, an announcement emailed to all staff by the CEO or HR Leader with a link to the relevant company policies and code of conduct.

  1. Educate workers on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, what it is and isn’t, how to prevent and manage it.

Deliver an online course that all staff must complete. This provides assurance that everyone knows how to prevent, identify and manage bullying and harassment. (Incidentally, we have partners with Workplace Mental Health Institute to bring you a modern online course on Anti bullying, which you can access HERE).

  1. Train your Managers

If you manage managers, provide them with training on how to lead and manage remote workers. It is important that they balance keeping people accountable for their agreement frames with micro-management and possible harassing behaviours. If you can, find them a coach that helps them develop their Emotional intelligence so they become aware of behaviour they display that could come across as bullying. Kylie Mamouney, leadership facilitator says “People are feeling disconnected at a time where they need their leader to make them feel secure.” We agree.

  1. Establish new team rules

Managers to hold a special meeting and facilitate the team to establish a new set of ground rules to follow. These ground rules should be around 6-10 statements of how the team will behave and be displayed during every meeting. In the online environment, each person should have a printed copy “in-shot” on their wall/background. Do this with each group you meet with regularly.

  1. Significantly increase your 1 on 1 Coaching and adopt a NEVER cancel culture

Leaders need to noticeably increase connectedness with their people and have them feel that through more frequent effective coaching. Effectiveness comes by using a framework that connects with emotion and logic.

While there are many other things you can implement, for some of us, this can act as plan number one. I wonder what shifts are happening in your workplace and am interested to hear your stories.


Jean Marcel Malliate

Principal Mediator, Investigator, Founder & CEO, InterMEDIATE Dispute Management


Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Create certainty in uncertain times

As a mother of two teenage daughters, business owner and CEO, Montessori educator, loving wife and caring homeowner, I know what it means to “juggle chainsaws”. During times of uncertainty, like this pandemic, it is my duty – better yet, our duty – to stay informed on the topic of safety, take the best safety measures, stay home, wash hands and make the best of the situation. The latter is probably one of the hardest tasks for most people. “How in the world do I keep a safe and sound mind during this uncertain time?” you probably ask. The answer is: “Create as much certainty as you possibly can in your own environment. That starts with your mindset, your clarity, and your time ownership.”

Right now, parents are either working from home amongst all the other family members and chores that are waiting to be done, or in the worst case one or both parents lost their jobs and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their business afloat.

Teachers are asked to move their curriculum to an online version and students are asked to stay focused in front of a computer screen (if they’re lucky enough to have a computer) for an entire day – day in, day out. Daycares have been closed for safety pre-cautions, toddlers, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners are expected to stay entertained while mommy and/or daddy work from home. In worst cases, mommy and/or daddy are trying to figure out how to pay rent, groceries, utilities because the income is no longer coming in.

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong
Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Financial stress, lack of communication and constant arguing are some of the main reasons families fall apart. This stress is heightened through this time of uncertainty as emotions are raw and amplified.

We (the parents and guardians) are asked to stay calm, figure out our “new normal”, maintain “socially distant” and remain calm for the sake of ourselves and our family.

Amongst all, we yearn human connection!

To add insult to injury, being annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious, makes our kids annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious as well.

This means, if you want your children to stay mentally strong, you, the parent have to  take care of yourself first, gain clarity, find joy, be grateful and stay/become calm. Sounds simple. I personally use two apps to gain more calmness and clarity, especially in times of uncertainty. Your contentment will reflect on your environment and the people that live in it:

So the question now is HOW? How to make time and space to juggle all these TASKS? How to create a NEW NORMAL? How to deal with UNCERTAINTY? How to COPE? How to stay CALM?

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The answer is simple and complex all in one: Create elements of CERTAINTY:

  • Have family meetings: dump all your thoughts on a big piece of paper, talk about your ideas, thoughts, fears and hopes with each other – be free of judgement.
  • Create a time-system with chores and responsibilities for each child, each family member, make specific time slots for specific tasks, love on each other, be grateful for one another
  • Set boundaries: in time & space, outline working hours and family-time hours.
  • Let everyone in the family have a voice and allow them to be part of this process and find agreement in it. Put it in writing and hang it on the fridge.
  • Plan free time for fun & balance.
  • Make time for family activities, create & play games, give all family members ownership for specific tasks (see meaningful task list).
  • Move, make intentional time do yoga or a workout routine (either together or separately)
  • Create clarity and certainty: talk & listen, strategize and give gratitude for the things
    you have (rather than focusing on the things you don’t have at the moment), be intentional

You are in this together, your children are an active part (or at least that’s the goal) of your family. Allow each family member to be a contributing member and watch how this time will draw you closer together. It is work and it will be worth it.

  • Give your child/ren meaningful tasks, allow them in the kitchen and integrate them in everyday chores. Rebellious behavior comes from frustration and frustration is caused by meaningless tasks.
  • Have a clear daily structure and allow time for creativity. Allow boredom to spark creativity.
  • Make time to spend outside (keep your distance to others, use all safety measures to not be exposed), walk in the rain, go bike riding, jog, play ball with your family, plant a small garden or plant some seeds – all of this will make your inside time more bearable.
  • As a family, create boundaries, make a day planner with the tasks that each family member wants and must complete.
  • Make a vision board with the things everyone would like to do, once this time is past, be specific and write it down what each family member is looking forward to.
  • Create an individualized space for reading, to study, to work, to play, to be by oneself and also intentionally create time and space to come together, create new games and play them, be creative, paint, sculpt and cut.
  • Identify home improvement tasks that you can do together.
  • Cook meals together, bake, make easy recipes, picnic, work out, do yoga via YouTube or an app.
  • Laugh! Hug. Talk, listen, sing and make up songs, dance, learn a new language together, read a book together, watch funny YouTube videos, go through your old pictures together and scrapbook a photo-book.
  • Write or draw letters to friends and family, create a book together (draw, write and be creative).
  • Build a fort,
  • Create your own funny videos on your phone.
  • Create a gratitude jar where everyone gets to write something that they are thankful for each day on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in the jar.

In simple terms: create balance and get harmony.


Balance and harmony

As a parent, this all starts with ME, my communication. I am in charge of my kindness, wellbeing, calmness, my joy and therefore I am in charge of how my children are kind, well, calm and joyful. My inner peace will flow over to my children, my environment and my family. It starts with ME. I take care of myself, remind myself daily that the quality of thoughts, words, feelings and tasks are my choice. I reap the results. I connect with kindness, understanding, knowledge, structure and fun to the people that are closest to me. I create the ripple effect that I yearn for. It starts with me.

AGES 2 - 3

  • Pick up and put away toys
  • Make bed
  • Dust with a cloth or swiffer
  • Put away Silverware
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Wash doorknobs
  • Fold rags and dishtowels
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Put clothes up in dresser

AGES 4 - 5

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Set & clear table
  • Feed pets & water plants
  • Wash windows & sills inside
  • Wipe kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Match socks
  • Simple garden work
  • Prepare simple snacks
  • Use handheld vaccum

AGES 6 - 8

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Put away dishes
  • Clean up spills
  • Prepare and pack lunches
  • Sort, wash & fold laundry
  • Take out trash & recycle
  • Simple meal prep:
    – Wash produce
    – Weigh ingredients
    – Simple cutting

AGES 9 - 11

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Clean stove & microwave
  • Mop & sweep * Vaccum
  • Clean toilets
  • Tightening screws
  • Make smoothies
  • Simple baking
  • Volunteering in neighbourhood

AGES 12 - 14

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Mow lawn
  • Babysit siblings
  • Cook
  • Clean full bathroom & kitchen
  • Keep environment tidy
  • Change lightbulbs
  • Simple sewing & mending

AGES 15+

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Babysit for pay
  • Organize home office
  • Sort & file documents
  • Iron clothes
  • Wash car
  • Trim hedges
  • Simple home repairs
  • Make meal plans

Brigitta Hoeferle

Renowned Montessori educator & parent, International Speaker, Founder of The Montessori School of Cleveland, and Owner and CEO of the NLP Center of Atlanta


What to do if your employees are anxious about coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is also impacting on employees mental health. But there are things you can do to protect your staff.

There has been an escalation in coronavirus cases globally in the last 48 hours. In response, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s is enacting the pandemic emergency response. We know that there will be a lot of employees experiencing a higher than usual level of stress right now.

From a workplace mental health perspective, during this time of fear and uncertainty, employees may be experiencing:

  • Concern for their health and that of their friends, families and co-workers.
  • Uncertainty about the economic impact on their organisation, and therefore their future employment.
  • Difficulty managing changes in the way they conduct their regular job tasks.
  • Frustration with the uncertainty as to how long this situation will last and how severe it will become

Learn more about Workplace Mental Health Strategies…

And when people are stressed and fearful, people respond in a variety of ways. And when people are stressed, it is common for people to:

  • become anxious or irritable
  • experience conflict with co-worker’s
  • feel demotivated or disengaged
  • lower their productivity
  • and a whole host of other responses.

Our hearts go out to the many of the workplaces we support that have staff and clients in affected areas, with some either previously or currently in quarantine. Many others are concerned about how the virus might impact their employees and their business in the coming weeks and or months.

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For these reasons, we felt it timely to reach out and let you know about some of the ways in which we are ready to assist you in supporting your teams during this difficult time:

  1. Online training programs – on mental health and wellbeing, resilience and mindfulness specifically but also the opportunity to upskill and keep staff engaged while regular duties might not be possible.
  2. Interactive webinar sessions on how to manage stress and change. Specifically, in the context of the Coronavirus.
  3. Online individual counselling and coaching.
  4. Consulting with leadership teams on workforce wellbeing strategy.

Our qualified, expert mental health professionals in Australia, the UK, and the USA, are ready to deliver support or training in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and English.

We know that workplaces can be a great source of support to staff, and we’d like to see workplaces come together to look after each other during this time.

Please check the World Health Organization’s (WHO) resources on the Coronavirus (COVID 19)

If there is anything we can do to assist with that, please get in touch. We are here to help.


17 Things Your Workplace Can Do For Mental Health Month Activities

Three elements that contribute to a sense of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace are feeling valued, connected to others, and safe. Mental Health Month gives us an opportunity to reach out and let people know that they matter. That they matter to us.

Design your mental health month activities with these three elements in mind, to create a culture of compassion, fun and connection.

Have a look at these activities below to find something suitable for your team:

Mental Health Month Ideas that are Quick and Low Cost


1. Hold a morning/afternoon tea to raise awareness

This is the traditional event. Provide food and they will come! But be careful with this one. If mental health and wellbeing has not been at its best lately, this can backfire and be seen as tokenistic. If you’re going to do this activity, you want to make sure you follow it up with a long term strategy, or have your Senior Exec team pledge their genuine commitment to mental health and wellbeing.

2. Register your team for the Compassion Games

A little bit of kindness can go a long way. Look at the difference it has made in the video at the website here:

3. Hold a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session on resilience at work

A quick and easy way to introduce the idea of positive mental health and wellbeing to a large number of employees, in a casual and laid back way. Contact us to find out about having a workplace mental health specialist attend your lunchroom in October.

4. Put posters up in the workplace

Mental Health poster do not have to be all doom and gloom In fact, we think it’s better if they focus on the positive side. You can download our posters for free at

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5. Tell each other what you like about them

Perhaps you write on a card for each of your team mates, or just make a point of telling them. Either way, find your way to let others know you like having them around. You never know who may really need to hear it today.

6. Engage your team in the ’10,000 Step Challenge’

The research is very clear – physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Have some fun with it by challenging your colleagues to a ‘Step Challenge’. Have participants track their steps with an iphone, fitbit, or pedometer, and log it each day. Offer a prize to the winners each week.

7. End your meetings with “proud and thankfuls”

Let your colleagues know they are appreciated, by this short ritual. At the end of a team meeting or briefing, having each person nominate one person they are thankful for, and why. You’d be surprised what a difference this can make to teamwork and connection.

8. Include an employee story in your newsletter

Have an employee who has experienced mental distress share a little bit on what helped them to feel better. Make sure the story is positive and inspirational – there’s no need to go into all the gory details. It’s even better if this is a person in a senior position. It lets people know that mental health can affect anyone, and that it’s OK to talk about it. Make sure the person is fully comfortable with talking about it.

9. Share some information or videos by email

Let people know it’s Mental Health Month, and share some information on where people can go to get help in the local area. Find some (tasteful) funny or inspirational videos and share them with others.

Mental Health Month Ideas for the Truly Committed

1. Host a ‘Wellbeing Day’ with a range of resources for all staff

This can be an annual event. Find an appropriate space and invite all staff to come along for the day/half day/short session. Set up some tables and invite local health professionals to share some information about their services (yoga, fitness, nutrition, counselling, volunteer groups, etc). Have lucky door prizes and competitions.

2. Invite a Speaker to your workplace event

Invite a mental health or motivational speaker to attend your event and start a conversation about wellbeing. Our specialists are available throughout October, so contact us for more information.

3. Launch an Online Learning Program

Online courses can be a great way to educate employees who have little time, or who are dispersed geographically. Pretty much anything can be delivered by an online format – so long as you have internet connection. This is a quick and simple way to get need to know information to your people.

4. Run some live training on mental health or resilience

Live training is the best way to learn about mental health and wellbeing. Our Workplace Mental Health Specialists are extremely knowledgeable, yet down to earth and fun facilitators who will make sure you have a great time while learning such vital skills that you can apply at work or home, for the rest of your life.

5. Announce the roll out of your Employee Wellbeing Survey

What better way to really find out how the workplace impacts on employee wellbeing than by asking the people themselves! Of course, this has to be done carefully. Our EWS16 Assessment uses validated measures, to help workplaces discover the true level of mental wellbeing within their specific organisation, but more importantly, to identify which activities will make the biggest difference to their employees overall. So their efforts can be channelled in the right direction.

6. Create a ‘Green Room’ space

Workplaces that are benchmarking when it comes to mental health and wellbeing are very aware of the impact of the physical environment on mental health and wellbeing. If you don’t have one, consider setting up a space that is more relaxed and laid back environment for staff to use when they like. It doesn’t have to be labelled as a ‘mental health space’, but just a nice room or area with some couches, magazines, a ‘pod’, a few plants, or whatever – be creative!

7. Put out the call for workplace champions or ‘first responders’

Just as we have designed Workplace Health & Safety Officers, so too it is recommended that workplaces have ‘Mental Health First Responders’. These people need specialised training in how to respond to people that may be in emotional distress. They may also sit on the Wellbeing Committee and be involved in wellbeing initiatives for the organisation. It helps to ensure that initiatives are communicated and adopted organisation wide, and means that work can be distributed amongst team members.

8. Begin your ‘WELL Certification’

WELL Certification is the leading tool for advancing health and wellbeing in buildings globally. A WELL Accredited Professional can help you to achieve certification for your building, workspace or community. Contact us for more information. So, please, let me know what you did for Mental Health Month, will you?

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.

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The Pivotal Generation: How Today’s Teens Will Change the World

Peter recently was asked for his thoughts on ‘the pivotal generation’ and given perhaps their most defining trait of always being ‘plugged in’ to the internet and social media, what mental health challenges they may face, if any, in the workplace. Following is an excerpt from that interview.

Centennials / Gen Z have been dubbed the “pivotal generation.” Do you agree with that title? What does it mean with regards to teens’ roles in society today?

It’s definitely an interesting title.


There’s no fixed age range, but generally speaking the term ‘Pivotal Generation’ refers to people currently under the age of 18. Why pivotal? Because the research shows they are displaying different patterns of thinking and behaviour to the Gen Y / Millennials before them. And some have suggested that those differences put them in a position to change the world.

In that sense, the Centennials have the opportunity to be pivotal but it’s yet to be seen whether they’ll take on that challenge. As a challenge it’s a big one, and it comes with a lot of responsibility.

What concerns me is whether a whole generation, whose obsession is with branding and personal (not collective) success, is ready to change the world.

That’s an interesting point – do you think today’s teens will in fact change the world?

Yes of course, every generation changes the world, in a sense. They cannot help it. The question is whether it will be an accidental change or an intentional change. The Centennials are in a world full of resources. Will they be able to get together collectively and decide how they want to shape it? There is no evidence to show they are any more willing to do that than previous generations. They are highly motivated for sure, but their focus appears to be on personal success over the collective.

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We are at a pivotal moment technologically speaking. How will the human engage and interact with the technological and what impact will it make around the world? We have the option of self annihilation or evolution of the species.

I’d like to think we’ll go for evolution, but there are some indicators we are headed for self annihilation – just look at the increasing suicide rate for example. And that has been linked to an existential crisis magnified through technology like social media. For a species to evolve we need to be more ‘other people’ focussed, not just about ‘me’.

Have we taught the values of compassion and interest in others needed to drive meaningful change to Centennials or are they caught up in their own egocentric search for meaning through material things? And are these drives enough to change society? That remains to be seen.

In the workplace, definitely the pace of change has the potential to be more significant than with any previous generations. There’s a need for innovation. We’re already seeing challenges between Millennials and the older generations with older generations losing out – being slower to learn new technology (generally speaking), less able or willing to show initiative, or to think on their feet and adapt rapidly. They are more wired to an old-school academic mentality of first learning the theory, and following instructions. But that mentality is not able to rewire itself as needed. One exciting thing about Centennials is they live in a world where they do not need established institutions to learn what they need to learn at an expert level. Almost all skills are at their fingertips and they know where and how to get the knowledge.

What would you say are some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z / Centennials?

Certainly we’re generalising here, but I would say they are:

  1. Tech savvy, knowing how to use technology and where to go to find information;
  2. Defining their own way to live, their own kinds of relationships and sexuality;
  3. Focused on ‘success’ and they want it big – and they also have the platforms where that’s possible;
  4. Social media savvy and have their own rules and etiquette for it

How would you say Centennials compare to Millennials, for example mentally, emotionally or socially?

Centennials share the same affinity with technology as Millenials, but this is taken a step further when it comes to the ability to adopt new technologies even faster, and to engage with social media in a more complex way.

In comparison to the Millennials, Centennials in some ways demonstrate a return to the values of the Gen X or Baby Boomers with an emphasis on personal success, ambition, and seemingly materialistic values. Yet they are not restricted in how they go about accomplishing this.

For example, while they are very driven for personal success, Centennials really don’t follow the old patterns of work – Monday to Friday 9-5, or even old styles of entrepreneurship. They can now make a living off of “nothing”. Very intangible stuff, like blogging about a company’s product, for example. This is perfect for the current environment, or perhaps it’s what’s shaping the current environment. Whereas Millennials still have a foot in each door of the old and the new way of working.

The problem I see is that with so much dependence on social media and personal branding, life can become superficial. There can be existential crises when your success is defined by your social media status. But is that really any different from the status of the old days – which was all about climbing the hierarchy in an organisation? At the core, I see the same issues, on a different playing field.

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.

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Does Your Boss Have Your Back?

trust-fallLet’s start with a couple of hypothetical scenarios.

  1. You have just been given a large project at work. You are excited at the level of responsibility you have been given and the opportunity to show your manager and colleagues what you can really do. As you begin to dig into the work, you discover just how much you are taking on. Overwhelmed at the possibility of failure, you begin to wonder – did your manager give you this project because they trust you to get the job done, or are they setting you up to fail?
  2. You’ve been asked to lead a change in your department. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get traction. You begin to feel trapped between direct reports who are resistant to your efforts and managers who expect change to come swiftly and seamlessly. What do you do?

Whether you feel like you are being sabotaged in the workplace or you are questioning the authenticity of your managers’ requests, it is important to realize that everyone experiences a certain amount of workplace paranoia from time to time. Today’s competitive economy seems to breed workplaces where managers and employees alike are feeling more pressure than ever to perform at a maximum level, 100 percent of the time.

In reality, our feelings of uncertainty are driving our perceptions of our workplace relationships rather than reality. As a result, the way we handle the situation is likely based on our perception rather than reality as well.

Read more on workplace strategies and leadership…

Let’s take these two scenarios and examine what might really be going on.


Perception: Your manager has placed you in charge of a large project. Overwhelmed by the vastness of what you are being asked to do, you wonder if they are setting you up to fail. Feeling defeated and abandoned, you likely react in one of two ways. Either you attempt to buckle down and do your job, but find yourself on edge or miserable. Or you admit defeat, update your resume, and chalk your experience up to your terrible manager.

Reality: Your manager is terrible at reading your mind. Chances are, they have no idea that you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about your ability to complete the project or lead the team or do the task. Fortunately, most managers do not want to set their teams up for failure but instead are happy to mentor their employees during particularly difficult projects or transitions. Rather than trying to go it alone or giving up, bring your concerns to them and ask for help regarding next steps.


Perception: As a change agent in your organization, you are caught between employees who are resistant to your ideas and bosses who expect huge changes in a short amount of time. You begin to wonder if you will be able to keep your job or if you will become the latest casualty of the organization.

Reality: If you are undergoing organizational change, chances are your manager is too. It is entirely likely that they’re feeling unsupported by their managers while experiencing resistance from their subordinates. Without realizing it, managers can pass on their own feelings of corporate paranoia, especially during large scale change. Rather than assuming your manager is asking you to do the impossible while leaving you to manage your department’s change on your own, discuss how you can strategically support one another.

If you are still uncertain as to whether your boss has your back, schedule an opportunity to informally discuss your specific situation with them. Go for coffee, ask if they are happy with how your team is functioning. Ask for feedback on whether you should be doing things differently over a casual lunch. Regardless of the setting, be sure you own your perceptions for what they are – your interpretation of the situation. Begin the discussion by asking for clarification, rather than confronting your manager with what you perceive as reality. Not only does this open the lines of communication, it helps you both understand how your personal bias has affected your situation.

You may be surprised to find out that they had your back all along.

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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When Fear & Stress In The Workplace Raise Their Ugly Heads

performance vs stress levelEver wondered how people screw themselves up?
Simple, we do it because we are afraid. And it’s ok. Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s a good thing, designed to protect us. But what happens when fear runs rampant? When your body reacts to a deadline at work with the same intensity as if it was being chased by a T-Rex? Then that’s not so good anymore, is it?

And it’s insane. It’s been said that 98% of the things we are scared of never come to fruition. Thank goodness, right? So, why do we make problems out of things that are highly unlikely to, ever, come true? It’s puzzling, isn’t it?

And when we keep doing that, fear, and anxiety turn into stress. And we all know what stress can do to our mental, not to mention physical health.

But, did you know that stress is actually good for you? Weird, right? But hear me out for a second…

Without some level of stress, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t bother going to work, and we certainly wouldn’t take on challenges and strive to better ourselves.

However it’s the amount of stress that’s the key.

The Performance-Arousal Curve shows us that performance increases with stress to a point, beyond which additional stress becomes counterproductive. Spend too long past the optimum point in the stress curve and we risk exhaustion, anxiety and eventually a breakdown.

But here’s where it gets even more complicated. The ‘optimum’ level of stress is not the same for everyone! That’s right, each individual will have their own version of this graph. But the good news is, it’s not set in stone. It can change.

As leaders, we want to build motivated, resilient and high performing teams. And wouldn’t it be great if our teams could do two things;

First, adjust their ‘optimum stress level’, so they are more resilient in the face of inevitable pressures and challenges.

And second, self monitor and self correct if approaching overload and burnout? That’s what I’d like to see in our workplaces. That’s my vision.

In order to achieve this, workplaces need to teach team members how to recognise when a colleague tips into the right of the curve, and how to catch that person before they start to spiral down.

BUT in order to be truly effective, this education needs to have a strong Recovery approach. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute, everything we do has a strong Recovery approach applied to the workplace. We focus on recovery not illness. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it’s a vital one. We don’t teach people how to look for problems that aren’t there; we teach them how to minimise risk, and confidently identify & deal with the typical warning signs of the most common mental illnesses. So their teammates can get the help they need and recover. (And the evidence is now pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of people DO recover)

We don’t need to teach employees and leaders to be mental health practitioners, but we can give them the basic skills to intervene early, before things get out of hand.

Btw, if you’re responsible for managing the mental health of your employees, and you need some help, please hit me up. We can help you meet your compliance obligations, foster a happy, high-performing environment, and significantly reduce risk.

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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Why do so many workplaces fail at mental health?

workplaces fail at mental healthThere seems to be this idea floating about in the business world that in order to be profitable and productive, one needs to be hard and tough. Yet another contradictory idea seems to be that mental health is fluffy, soft, weak. Many people’s idea of good mental health is extreme. One where people have full love, consensus and agreement for all. Like everyone holding hands and singing Kumbayah. Nothing could be further from what’s required to promote and maintain a workplace’s mental wealth. Maybe that’s why so many organisations and leaders do so poorly at mental health. Either they adopt the “toughen up! take a spoonful of cement” approach, or they go too far the other way, with a “touchy, feely, anything goes” approach.

Meanwhile, 1 in 5 Australians suffer from a mental disorder and countless others detest going to work. (The stats are similar in other developed nations by the way). How has it become such a pervasive problem in our organisations and why isn’t more being done about it? To understand why, we need to look at the dynamics between the players in our organisations and ask ourselves what might be stopping them from taking action.

Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….

The prevailing management style through much of the last couple of centuries has been to keep a professional distance from staff members. The manager’s job was to set the direction and manage the performance of the employee, and the employee’s job was to reliably perform their tasks to the best of their ability. It’s a similar relationship to that between a machine and it’s operator, which is not surprising, given much of the early work was done by men on assembly lines in factories. Employees were cogs in a machine, so to speak, and much of the management and HR thinking was (and still is) centred around ensuring enough employees are available to maintain production, and that they perform reliably and at maximum efficiency. It would be ridiculous for an operator to ask his machine, ‘Are you ok?’. Similarly, many managers today feel that asking an employee about their mental state is not appropriate – it’s too personal, or taboo, or simply ‘not my job’.

The reality is that the prevailing management paradigm is fundamentally not equipped to deal with mental health issues. And that’s the main reason so many workplaces fail. A new paradigm is needed, for a new world of work.

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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Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 4th Pillar

What do mentally wealthy organisations differently to others? Good question, right?

What Mentally wealthy organisations do is they see resilience and wellbeing as an integral part of their culture, in the extraordinary cases – it IS their culture. It’s not just an add on.

Think back to your time in organisations over the past maybe 10 to 20 years or so.  How many ‘strategic initiatives’ can you recall?  I can think of a stack of them: Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Employee Onboarding, Activity Based Costing, Management by Objectives, Triple Bottom Line Accounting…  And quite a few more.  How many of these really stuck and became part of the fabric of the organisation?  How many are you actively practicing today?

Probably not many, right?

And this is the problem with bolt on initiatives.  The Board or the leadership team will get hold of an idea from somewhere and decide it will be the next silver bullet that’s going to give them a strategic advantage over competitors and transform the industry landscape.  Project teams are established, consultants are hired, strategic plans are announced, budgets are approved and work begins.  But before long the project team encounters the headwinds of organisational inertia.  When push comes to shove, for example when a leader’s bonus rides on hitting a sales target, they will prioritise business as usual over supporting the project team.  With bolt on initiatives, what looks like commitment is actually in-principle support, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of ‘the important stuff’.

Read the other Pillars of Mentally Healthy Workplace….

There is a ROI of 2.3 on average direct correlation between the mental health of your employees and your organisation’s financial performance.  It is no-brainer.  Therefore it is too important to chance employee mental health to the success of your ‘Wellness Program’ or ‘RUOK Awareness Day’.  Mental health built into everything you do cannot be an add-on to what you do. It needs to be in built into everything you do. It needs to be part of the how you think or how you talk in your organization. It needs to permeate your policies. It needs to permeate how you move the organization.

You can cut logs and carry them to the nearest town and then put them on a truck. Or, you can chug the logs onto the river and let the flow take it to the nearest town. Which one is easier? Don’t make your employee mental health initiative a bolt on that you have to expend additional energy to execute.  Make it flow by incorporating it into the way your leaders lead.

It can’t be like, “Oh, did we talk about mental health this quarter? We need to put something in the Board report.” No, it happens as a matter of course.  It’s what we do. It’s not a bolt-on, it’s totally integrated.

That’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Pillar.

Talk soon and have a mentally healthy day.

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 Twitter-logo


Is Mental Health Really Getting Worse or Are We Just Talking About it More?

Better-worseThis is a question which frequently comes up in our training courses. And our answer to this is “a bit of column A, and a bit of Column B”.

Across the ages, people have always experienced mental health issues. Whether it was overwhelming anxiety, depression, or even ‘psychotic’ episodes, which in past times would more likely have been explained in a spiritual reference as either connection to the gods, or possession. But it’s always been there.

In more recent times (but really only in the last 100-200 years, mind you), we have started to medicalise mental health issues, measure and examine them. If you look at it on the surface, it is true, that we do indeed see increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with mental health issues. But the key there is in the ‘diagnosis’.

You see, it may be that with increasing awareness about mental or emotional distress, more and more people are going to seek help, and receiving a diagnosis. But we also need to consider that if we look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (with at least 56% of the panel members receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies) the number of mental health issues you can be diagnosed with has grown over the years. There are now hundreds of diagnoses you can get (we don’t recommend it).

Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….

Also the criteria for diagnosis of a mental health problem has been lowered over the years, to the point where many psychiatrists are actually speaking out against the current version of the DSM, particularly in the areas of grief and autism spectrum disorders, amongst others. When the latest version was put together many psychiatrists withdrew their participation and there were petitions against various aspects of it signed by hundreds of psychiatrists and mental health professionals. And yet it remains generally accepted as the “measurement” of mental health issues.

Add to that the fact that with increasing awareness and decreasing stigma around mental health issues, more people are reaching out to get help, and it would be reasonable to conclude that the actual numbers of people suffering are not actually on the increase, that it is purely the result of our diagnostic standards, and increasing awareness.

But, it gets more complicated than that. There are things in our current, modern lives, which we believe are also impacting on people’s general wellbeing. Just some of those include the increasing pace of change, increasing demands on us in terms of workloads, increasing opportunities to compare ourselves to others negatively (through globalization of media, social media, etc), increased use of medications (see our blog “3 little known things that are making people’s mental health worse”), new ways of viewing life which diminish personal responsibility, a culture of expectations, instant gratification, and entitlement, and the list goes on.

So, with all this in mind, how do we navigate the complex world of mental health? Well the first step is education – getting some good insight into these issues is an essential first step.

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 Twitter-logo

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