Category Archives: Mental Health

Bullying-WMHI-blog-header

5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

You may not think of your office as a place where bullying occurs, but believe it or not, this kind of interpersonal conflict happens in places other than just the schoolyard.

In fact,

research has shown that as many as 1 in 4 people report that they have experienced workplace bullying firsthand.

Unfortunately, workplace bullying often goes under the radar. Why? First of all, it’s not always as obvious as the overt name-calling, shoving, and teasing that we have come to associate with made-for-TV bullies. Secondly, bullying can be embarrassing: a team member who is being bullied may not want to talk about it for fear of looking weak. He or she may also feel pressure to avoid ‘dobbing in’ a coworker, or becoming the target of the bully if they step in on someone’s behalf.

But workplace bullying can and should be addressed by managers in any business or company. In the work environment, bullying tends to be a long, slow, and progressive process, whereby the perpetrator emotionally and psychologically manipulates his or her target over time. This can lead to serious problems with an overall workplace environment and may even contribute to lost productivity, increased errors, and other issues that are common with a distracted and unhappy team member (not to mention a worst-case scenario in which companies are held legally liable for failing to protect an employee against bullying).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self-assessment to find out.

5-More-Subtle-Signs-of-Workplace-Bullying

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So, the first step in putting an end to workplace bullying in your company is to learn how to tell if, when, and where it’s happening. Here are 5 subtle signals that your workplace environment may be home to some bullying:

  1. Frequent use of the blame game.

Is there a person on your team who seems to always have an excuse for his or her performance? Does he or she frequently point fingers at someone else, using another person as a scapegoat? Responsibility has to lie somewhere: if someone is unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or inactions, then chances are they’re attempting to unfairly shift that responsibility to someone else.

  1. Minimising the thoughts, contributions, and feelings of others.

Having a patronising attitude toward someone is a subtle way of putting that person down and making him or her feel victimised. A team member who appears to make fun of, minimise, undermine, or discredit someone’s ideas or needs (especially on a consistent basis) could be bullying. They may laugh derisively at someone’s thoughts or ideas; or physically disengage in communication by turning away and changing topic drastically.

  1. Deceit and dishonesty.

We all tell white lies from time to time. But if a person has a pattern of frequently lying, raising false hopes, or saying they’ll do something and then failing to follow through, then this could be a sign that he or she is trying to take advantage of the people around him or her.

  1. Intentional isolation by way of ignoring or excluding someone.

A sensation of “us versus them” can be seriously detrimental to the health and unity of a company. Team members may achieve this by purposefully not inviting someone to a work event or failing to include them in pertinent discussions, meetings, or projects. Purposefully underusing a team member or persistently delegating undesirable tasks to him or her (especially if they fall within many people’s job descriptions) can also be seen as an attempt for separation.

An example of this is, ‘ghosting’, where the bully will ignore a team member’s attempts to communicate for legitimate work reasons, while they acknowledge other people’s communication that they consider more important. While this practice is, unfortunately, widely tolerated in Australia, it is, nonetheless, damaging.

  1. Excessive flattery.

Going overboard on compliments and flattery is disingenuous at best; at worst it can be a form of manipulation, persuading the target to check for the flatterer’s approval on any decisions or action. It can also be used as a prelude to more overt bullying, encouraging a person let their guard down, therefore becoming easier to manipulate.

The best bullies tend to be very smooth operators, able to hide their bullying well, and will leave just enough wiggle room to claim their good intentions are being misconstrued, in the event they’re called out. The best defense against bullies is education and awareness. When people are aware of the signs, it becomes harder for the bully to operate freely.

Keep in mind that workplace bullying can happen at any level and in any direction within your company. Everyone, from senior level executives all the way to the newest team members should be held to the same standards that are necessary to create a positive and healthy work environment.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

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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On R U OK Day: How Managers Can Make It Easier For Staff To Say, “I’m Not OK”

On R U OK? Day we’re reminded that leaders play an important role in safeguarding and supporting the mental health of their teams. Asking after the mental health of a team member is the first step, and a very important one, in creating a more mentally healthy workplace.

However, what we’ve noticed over the years in our training and consulting work, and what we’ve read in studies from the major world economies, is that employees are reluctant to open up about mental health concerns to their leaders.

A study we completed recently confirmed what we’ve been hearing. We reached out to our community of managers and everyday employees and asked them two questions:

‘If a friend asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

‘If your BOSS asked R U OK?, and the answer was ‘No’, would you tell them?’

And, anticipating the response we might receive, we asked another question:

What advice would you give management to make it easier for their people to say ‘I’m not OK’?

We asked respondents to leave comments on the first two question if they wished, and we asked about their gender and age group so we could look for basic trends.

The results were pretty interesting.

Results

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Consistent with what we’ve seen and read, managers are a lot less trusted by employees when it comes to disclosing their mental health state. 29% of people said they’d hold back from telling a friend if they have a mental health concern. But that figure jumped to almost half when asked if they’d tell their manager.

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Gender differences

What did surprise us was that women were less likely to disclose than we expected, and actually less likely than men. Is it possible that women feel less secure in their employment than men, and feel a greater need to keep up appearances? This is an area we’ll be looking into with future research.

Age differences

We received low numbers of respondents under 35, so didn’t include them in age comparisons.

We noticed that males aged 35-44 were the least likely to disclose to friends or a boss. Perhaps with these years being the phase were men start to move into senior leadership and take on significant responsibility, that giving the appearance of ‘not handling it’ would be detrimental to their forward progress and so they stay quiet.

The other trend that stood out was respondents aged over 55. Again, it’s possible that older workers are concerned about job security, and perhaps it’s a generational thing: with older people in the main valuing their privacy and separation of personal life from professional life.

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Comments

Would you tell a friend?

Of course, many people said it depends on who the friend is, citing things like:

  • How close they are
  • How easy they are to talk to
  • Whether they had the strength to deal with their reaction
  • Whether they were good listeners and would give their opinion
  • How supportive they are
  • If they thought they could help
  • If the friend has past troubles and perhaps could empathise

For many people, factors like timing, choosing the right setting and how bad things are, were also important.

Reasons they wouldn’t tell a friend included:

  • Not wanting to burden others, especially if they have their own struggles
  • Concern for privacy
  • Not wanting to be seen as a ‘whinger’ or ‘wimp’

But the news was not all bad. There were some strong arguments for telling a friend, a stand out one for us was, “I’ve learned the lesson of when you try to ignore it.” Seems like the message is getting through that asking for help is the best course of action.

Would you tell your boss?

Again, not surprisingly, most respondents said it depends on the person in the big chair.

  • I have faith or trust in my boss
  • It may help them to understand their situation too
  • I work in a supportive organisation
  • I’ve had good personal experience

…were all reasons people said they would and have told their boss.

But the news was not all good. Reasons given for not telling the boss ranged from concern about what might happen:

  • Stays on your record and impacts promotion opportunities
  • Don’t trust the boss
  • May be used against me
  • They may doubt my ability to do the job
  • Blurs boundaries – there are other options available
  • I work in mental health, we are expected to be ‘above that’
  • Fear about being performance managed
  • Don’t want to come across as not having it all together, weak or underperforming

To being once bitten, twice shy:

  • Had a bad past experience
  • Telling my boss complicated the situation
  • Boss avoids me now and I’m discounted
  • It was used to fire me

It’s clear a strong stigma remains around disclosing mental health concerns in the workplace. Alongside asking ‘RUOK?’ which is a noble and very important first step, we need to be giving managers better support. Specifically, we need to do two things:

  1. Help managers break down the stigma attached to mental health issues to create an environment where it’s ok to say, “I’m not OK”
  2. Give them the tools and training to respond and to help an employee who tells them they’re not OK. Sometimes a manager won’t ask because they don’t what to say if the answer is not ‘I’m fine, thanks for asking.’

In doing so, we’ll be creating confident, psychologically safe managers, capable of engaging teams to perform at their best.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the test to find out.

Advice to managers

But don’t just take our word for it. Below we’ve listed verbatim all our respondents’ suggestions for how managers can make it easier for them to disclose a mental health issue without fear of repercussions.
  • Be genuine and authentic, care and empathy – all the time, too late when it comes to R U OK
  • Show interest in the whole person
  • Be available
  • Listen not problem solve
  • Talk about the subject at work, normalise it
  • Peer support group, EAP, resources
  • Discuss options without going down workcover route
  • More conversations
  • Culture of being your whole self at work
  • Open minded and honest
  • Confidential
  • Stress leave, reduced hours, duties, RDOs
  • Better education for managers
  • Let them know re good work too
  • Mental Health and Stress Management Policy
  • Safe that it’s not going to impact job
  • Suggestion boxes for anonymous feedback
  • Ensure privacy
  • Clear open policies promoted
  • Leadership skills for managers
  • Modelling from managers on how to deal with hard times, be vulnerable, take leave etc
  • Don’t doubt the answer when you get it
  • Do something – not just lip service to employee mental health
  • Ask more often not just once a year’
  • Be OK with uncomfortable
  • Treat worker as a human, not a number
  • Get others with a good experience to share it
  • Context – some want to be asked and to talk about it others won’t.
  • Recognise needs of carers (of people with mental illness, elderly, children etc)
  • Ask but also express that work need not be involved as long as performance ok
  • Managers need skills – don’t just pass it off to HR or EAP
  • Know how to follow up the question
On R U OK Day, and every day, let’s ask the question. But let’s go a step further and actualy equip our managers to create the productive and mentally wealthy work environments that we keep asking them for.

If you’d like to know how you can build the capability of your leaders in this space, consider inviting us to run a private Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders for your managers or team.

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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3 Ways To Break The Stigma Around Mental Health At Work

Mental health issues are a common problem facing Australians, and the related statistics are telling:

  • Currently, about 450 million people around the world are living with some kind of mental disorder.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, about 25% of the global population will experience a mental disorder at least once in their lifetime.
  • In Australia alone, about 1 out of every 5 of us will experience mental ill-health every year.
  • Mental health problems hold the dubious honor of being the third leading cause of disability within the Australian labour force.
  • It’s been estimated that Australian businesses lose more than $6.5 billion every year by not providing early intervention and treatment for their employees who are experiencing mental health issues.
  • However, despite evidence showing just how common this condition is, it’s been estimated that up to two thirds of people with a known mental health condition choose not to seek professional help.
Stigma Around Mental Health At Work

Why is this so?

Access to care, language barriers, and a dearth of quality resources are a few reasons why, but perhaps the most insidious reason is stigma.

Mental Health Stigma Exists — and it Doesn’t Necessarily Stop at the Workplace

Stigma has a powerful influence in the world of mental health issues. Society at large often views people living with mental disorders as unstable, dangerous, or even violent. People with mental health challenges are often believed to be incapable of leading productive and fulfilling lives—indeed, sufferers themselves may even believe this. Research doesn’t tend to support these assumptions, but media and cultural expectations often bolster them, anyway.

These assumptions—real or imagined—can discourage people living with mental ill-health to seek much needed treatment. Their condition may make them feel ashamed, weak, and alone, which of course only compounds their mental health issue and propagates a vicious feed-forward cycle of stress, isolation, and illness.

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Mental Health Issues on the Job

If we agree that stigma about mental health is virtually ubiquitous, then it becomes clear how this same stigma can exist in the workplace, too. Specifically, both employers and employees may assume a mental health problem will render a person less productive, less organized, and less able to focus on their tasks at hand. Of course, in some cases this can actually hold true, especially if an individual hasn’t sought treatment for their underlying disorder.

Many workplace team members living with a mental health issue choose to hide their issues. They often fear for their job security or are afraid to risk “losing face” in front of their bosses, colleagues, and customers. On their end, employers may not have the tools and tactics to talk to their employees about their suffering. Indeed, an employer may not even be aware that one of his or her team members is suffering from a mental health issue in the first place (unlike a broken ankle or other physical ailment, mental health conditions are often “invisible” and difficult to recognise).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

It’s worth pausing here to reflect on something: mental health problems are common problems. It’s unfortunate that so many people grappling with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues believe that they have to face their challenges alone. Fortunately, leaders in business organisations are in a unique position to change the way their individual companies approach and accommodate mental health, which can have a profoundly positive impact on the issue of mental health as a whole.

3 Ways to Reduce Stigma Associated with Workplace Mental Health Issues

A workplace culture that stigmatises against workplace mental health issues can be detrimental to both individuals within a company and to the company as a whole. Breaking through this stigma can be extremely difficult. Here are 3 ways to get started:

  1. Educate at all levels.

From senior executives to entry-level team members, everyone in your company can benefit from learning more about mental health. Consider sending out company-wide memos, holding in-services, inviting guest speakers, or even running annual events such as “Mental Health Month” as a way to disseminate information and reduce the fear, stigma, and mystery surrounding mental health.

  1. Ensure everyone on your team has access to help.

Work with your HR team or consultants to raise awareness about policies and programs designed to support both physical and mental health. Use discretion and show that you respect your employees’ privacy.

  1. Make your anti-discrimination policies clear.

As a manager, it’s in your best interest to show your employees that they will not be discriminated against due to a mental health issue. Lead by example. Show that by acknowledging and seeking help for a health issue, a person can become an even more valuable employee at your company, rather than a liability.

To your mental health,

Did you download our Mental Health Awareness Posters? DOWNLOAD HERE

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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What Most People Don’t Know About Psychological Injury at Work

Traditionally, when speaking of Workplace Health and Safety, psychological injury is not something we thought about. But, as many professionals have realized lately, a Workplace Health and Safety strategy is severely incomplete without taking psychological injury into account. (for help creating a Mental Health Workplace Strategy check our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass) Psychological injury is also known as psychiatric injury, and it includes all mental, emotional and physical injuries acquired from the place of employment. Employees that suffer from a psychological injury due to an employer’s negligence can take legal steps against their employers, so it is essential to create a safe working environment to prevent such occurrences. Legally, it’s no longer ok to ignore the psychological safety of employees. Managers are now liable.

Psychological-Injury-at-Workplace

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Yet, how do we know if an employee is at risk of psychological injury at work? One symptom of employees that are suffering from psychological injuries is a noticeable and measurable reduction in their production or in the way they handle, or their inability to handle, emotional issues. For example, they may become acutely defensive even when feedback given in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately, many businesses refuse to recognize that a place of business can have a severe psychological impact on its employees. However, considering that employees in full-time employment spend a significant portion of their time at work, it is clear that a workplace plays a vital role in an employee’s life. As well as their psychological state.

Traditionally, psychological injury was thought to be brought about by stressors in the workplace such as extremely high workloads, difficult employees, unrealistic deadlines or unrewarding work. Under this assumption, it was thought that a combination of stressors in a place of business increased the risk of psychological injury significantly. However, according to recent studies, other crucial factors can affect or cause mental injury at work. According to these studies, relationships at work and the level of support given to employees is more likely to cause psychological injuries than anything else. In this regard, the less supported, the less valued and the less understood an employee feels at work, the greater the risk of a psychological injury.

This not only indicates that a change of attitude and behavior is required from employers; it also emphasizes the need to establish interpersonal relationships with employees. A positive relationship between employers and their employees creates a platform to handle conflicts well, which reduces the number of psychological injury claims made by employees. Additionally, through positive work relationships, collaborative behavior is encouraged, which promotes the establishment of considerations that can regulate the number of psychological injury cases that may arise.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

A business that supports its employees through flexible arrangements makes employees feel valued, which encourages productivity in the personal and business lives of employees. To reduce conflict brought about by psychological injuries, it is essential for employers to create a safe work environment that is free of discriminatory practices and one that fosters positive work relationships between employees of all levels. By instituting training, campaigns and prevention strategies, employees can become more engaged, happier and less inclined to take legal action.

It takes effort, from both the employers and their employees to reduce the instances of injury. But, ultimately, it’s the employers responsibility to take the initiative to create a psychologically safe environment at work.

We help management create psychologically safe environments, and minimise psychological injury, with our many programs. In particular, our flagship course the Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders. Check it out and see if it can help you too.

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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Mental Health and Productivity. Why Managers Need Mental Health Courses

Workplace Mental health is an issue of grave concern. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of absenteeism from work. Mental health problems at work can cause immense suffering to those experiencing them, and those around them. As such, there is an overwhelming need for managers, business owners and employees to address the issue of mental health at work. Managers particularly should play a significant role in promoting mental health among employees. However, it is essential that managers receive the right support to assist them to handle this task efficiently. If we are to empower supervisors and staff to make a positive impact on mental health it will involve giving them the proper training from industry experts and professionals through mental health courses.

Mental-Health-and-Productivity

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A course on mental health would create awareness and understanding among managers, as well as teach them important lessons such as how to categorise common mental health disorders. Besides learning how to classify the signs and symptoms of mental suffering, they would also be counseled on practical strategies that can support members of their organisation.

The major benefits of taking a mental health course include:

  1. Gaining the ability to understand and appreciate the stigma surrounding mental health at work.
  2. Giving employees the confidence to handle clients or workmates suffering from mental health conditions in a humane manner.
  3. Awarding employees and business owners the opportunity to understand the legal requirements surrounding workplace mental health care.
  4. Teaching people techniques and strategies for managing employees with mental conditions.
  5. Improving one’s understanding of stress and how it impacts morale at work.
  6. Reflecting on our own attitude towards mental health problems. If the attitude is a negative one, then we can take measures to change and improve.
  7. Allowing participants to learn possible interventions for workplace mental illnesses.

Did you check our Mental Health Courses?

The outcome of a good mental health training course should be to help management and their employees create a work environment where personal resilience is enhanced, and the comfort and safety of all employees are protected. This will enable the workforce to respond effectively to the challenges that arise while working, which in turn will enhance their confidence, allowing them to produce their very best.

Organisations often lose out on the expertise of capable workers due to mismanagement. Knowing what to do and how to manage the mental health of teams can be tricky. For most people suffering from mental health conditions, their last resort is often, sadly, a choice between a decline of their mental health or abandoning their jobs. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and investing in a course in mental health is the best way to secure the mental health of a workforce. The training should be practical and applicable so that the psychological safety and wellbeing of the whole organisation and its employees is enhanced. Good workplace mental health is good business and at the Workplace Mental Health Institute we want to help.

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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8 Tips On How To Develop Resilience For Surviving The Modern Workplace Mentally Healthy

One way to notice a well-adjusted and mentally healthy employee is through his or her resilience. By resilience we mean the ability individuals have to bounce back quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Resilient employees have the capacity to handle the strains of the contemporary workplace. This means that they can manage stress well without necessarily placing their jobs in jeopardy. Resilience is good for workplace mental health. It allows an individual to respond to the demands of life without succumbing to pressure. Resilience also allows employees to deal with the demands of their jobs especially if the job requires them to change their priorities often and regularly. The ability to cope with the stresses and adversities of work and daily life requires a change in attitude and thoughts. But, how do you do that? Here are a few ways that employees can develop resilience at work:

Develop-Resilience-at-Workplace

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  1. Create and appreciate positive relationships. By appreciating the existing social support you get at work, you become more able to develop positive relationships in the workplace. These positive relationships come in handy later when you need encouragement, which fosters your ability to cope and your resilience as a human being.
  2. Practice viewing obstacles as opportunities or challenges. What can you learn from this situation? Employees can learn to treat difficulties as a platform for learning rather than as an impediment to their careers. Developing the habit of transforming challenges into opportunities is an invaluable skill that leads to self-development, resilience and progress.
  3. Celebrate success, even small ones. Celebrating success and small victories every time they occur fosters resilience. Employees should carve out some time in their day to enjoy the highs in their careers. This trains employees brains to look for the positive and to look forward to possible future successes in their line of work rather than dwell on the negatives or difficulties of their job.
  4. Craft a plan. Developing viable and meaningful career objectives that have a sense of purpose for the individual allows employees to bridge work and other life goals. In this way, they are encouraged to develop resilience even in the heart of adversity as they are working towards a motivating personalised objective.
  5. Develop more confidence. Building levels of self-confidence allow employees to live in the knowledge that they are going to succeed eventually. Despite the drawbacks that may occur, confidence enables people to take risks in their personal life and their careers, which give them the energy to move forward in life.
  6. Learn to see things from a different angle. Resilient people know how to develop perspective, which enables them to understand that although a circumstance may seem overwhelming and impossible to maneuver now, it will not seem so later; ‘in the long run, it’ll all work out for the best’.
  7. Restructure your mind. Learning how to handle tough situations requires, at times, a complete restructuring of the mind. Bad days are inevitable, and learning how to react to them without blowing things out of proportion is part of being resilient.
  8. Be flexible. Flexibility enables resilient people to understand that things are never be constant. As such, being flexible allows people to shift and amend their goals at an appropriate, and healthy, speed.

Resilience is an invaluable skill to have in the workplace as it allows one to handle the difficulties that arise from working in a stressful environment. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute we take resilience very important. It’s a key protector of people’s mental health. Help your employees develop resilience and you immunize them from mental health problems.

Would you like to learn more? We run mental health courses on resilience. Our most popular course is the Building Resilience At Work. Check it out.

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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Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Employees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

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Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. Professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

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The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work (in addition please read our discussion paper – Silent Expectations) include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

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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Pivotal-Generation

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.

Pivotal-Generation

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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Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

Machiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Owls

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

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You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

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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How-to-avoid

How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work

4 reasons why you can’t say no to too much work

Let’s say you find yourself tasked with leading a new project – say it’s the rollout of a company-wide performance management system.

In your first strategy meeting your team determines that you need to conduct interviews with managers, create and validate metrics for making hiring and promotion decisions, and work with senior leaders to ensure the system is in keeping with corporate culture. As you begin to divide tasks, you volunteer to conduct the interviews because you are the project manager and you want to lead from the front. Then, you offer to take a second look at the metrics to give them a “second set of eyes”. Then, since you are leading the team, you begin meeting with senior leaders too. Before long you start to struggle to meet your commitments, and feel a growing resentment toward the rest of the team for not pulling their weight.

Does this pattern sound familiar to you? Outside of the specifics of the performance management project example, many of us take on too much work and this leads to resentment.

We often give a hundred reasons why we do take on so much work, to the point of not being able to do any of it well. However, they can generally be distilled into three categories.

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We want to please

Regardless of whether you classify yourself as a “people pleaser” or not, everyone loves to feel needed and appreciated. However, typically people who struggle to say, “No” to a request have an intense fear of rejection or a fear of failure. Our early life experiences with especially harsh or critical parents can often result in the feeling that your inaction will result in the disappointment of your friends or colleagues. The desire to please is also deeply connected with anxiety, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, stress, and depression.

We have a lack of self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of those terms that everyone loves to throw around but few will do the difficult work to acquire. When we don’t have a good handle on our own capacity or ability level, it is easy to underestimate how much effort a certain task will require from us. If you continuously make work decisions with a lack of self-awareness, you will often find yourself buried under a mountain of tasks you do not have the ability to complete in a timely and efficient manner.

We don’t think we have a choice

The idea that you do not have a choice whether to take on a task is partly connected to a need to please and often connected to feelings of insecurity or anxiety. Once you begin making work decisions based on feelings of helplessness, resentment and anger soon follow. Before long, you are left feeling “stuck” or “trapped” in your job, even if it is something you previously enjoyed.

What to do instead

Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies to avoid taking on too much at work. First, learn how to wait. Often times people who take on too much do not wait for others to volunteer. Unless the task is something you are excited about, count to 20 and really consider the task before agreeing to it. Second, when faced with a person asking you to do something, ask three questions.

1. What is the specific task that is being requested? Many people love to make requests without completely formulating the task in question. When you ask a requester this question, it forces them to list out the particulars of the task at hand and allow you to determine if it is within your skill set and timeline or not.

2. Will I need to learn a new skill to complete this task? There are times in our careers when we are ready and able to learn a new skill that will benefit us in the long run. If your current workload allows for the time and effort it would require to learn a new skill and if you are interested in the new skill, go for it. If not, politely decline.

3. How does this task fit into my overall workload? If you have to juggle your existing schedule for anything other than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s okay to say “no” instead.

As difficult as it may be to say “no” at work, consider it a long-term investment in your career. Not only will you be perceived as an honest individual, you will be able to reliably meet the deadlines and demands placed on you. Feelings of anger and resentment will melt away and you may even find yourself with more time to pursue career advancement or skill development.

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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