Tag Archives: Mental Health and Wellbeing

Grief-and-Loss

4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

As COVID-19 has become a household word across the world over the last month, many of us find ourselves in uncertain territory. We are grieving the familiar bedrock of our lives like office time, schedules, in person meetings, and social activities. With children home from school, self-quarantines in place in much of the world, and restricted travel we are all navigating a new normal.

As we walk this unfamiliar path, perhaps fear, questions, and doubt are trying to overtake familiar landmarks like balance, trust, confidence and faith that things will all work out.

You are not alone. Most of the world can resonate with feeling anxious or uncertain, or walking through the pain of loss. Loss of job, routine, finances, stability, or even loved ones. But, believe it or not, there is hope and help despite how hard things might look in this moment. You can find your way again by taking these steps when your world feels out of control.

Step 1. Establish your mindset

It’s said that mindset is everything. You would never begin a journey without knowing where you are hoping to end up. In the same way, when we are in uncertain times, we need to have a mindset that will withstand the trial.

Grief-and-Loss
4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

One way to combat a negative attitude that often accompanies hardship is to choose a centering thought. Be intentional and choose something that is meaningful to you like a favorite expression, a significant truth, a motivational quotation, or a faith-based truth. Make it your own and refer to it often. Put it on your emails, social media, or say it in conversations to keep it in the forefront of your mind. When we choose a mindset that is framed in the positive it help us avoid getting stranded on the dark path of negativity.

Step 2. Determine your non-negotiables

In a crisis, instead of constantly reacting to your circumstances, a bit of proactive planning will give you a head start. Stay focused by creating a list of your non-negotiables. Think about things like physical, emotional, mental, and soul care. Then ask yourself a few questions: What’s important to me? What routines will I try to keep no matter what? What can’t I live without? What won’t I tolerate? What guidelines would I like people to follow?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, make a realistic list of what you need. Whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep habits, regular social activities, faith involvement, children’s bedtimes/schedules, or working hours, you get to decide how you’re going to navigate your hard place. Once you’ve made your choices, be sure to communicate your needs to others so they can help you take care of yourself in this way.

If you don’t determine what your absolutes are, they will be determined for you. So be proactive!

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Step 3. Ask for Help

In researching my two books, Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places, I surveyed hundreds of people who had faced all manner of loss, grief and hardship and asked what their greatest struggle was during that time. A huge percentage said that although they were lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless or afraid, it was very difficult to ask for or accept help.

Pride, shame, embarrassment, or guilt are significant roadblocks that stand in the way of hurting people getting the help they need. But it’s important to understand that being in need is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human!

Many people want to help and when we allow them to, we give them a chance to feel good in an uncertain time. Trying to handle everything on our own will burn us out. But in times of uncertainty, we have a chance to see the best, and be the best, in terms of our relationships.

Step 4. Stay engaged with others

There are many ways you, too, can be a source of help and comfort to those around you. Try one of these ideas to encourage and help others while maintaining your relationships:

  • Call a friend and ask how they’re doing, giving ample time to listen.
  • Have coffee dates or happy hour with friends or family by Facetime or video conference.
  • Change your regular book club or study group to phone or video, and take a moment to share your highs and lows with each other.
  • Download a video sharing app for your phone and use short video messages to stay in touch with groups of friends or colleagues.
  • Order a box of cards online and take time to write one note of encouragement per day to someone you care about.
  • Read an uplifting book at the same time as a friend and make a weekly phone date to discuss it.
  • Host a virtual dinner party where you and your friends make the same thing at your own homes and then sit down to eat together online.
  • Meet friends for take-out and maintain social distance by eating and chatting in your parked cars next to each other! (if your local authorities allow you of course!)

These practical steps are a way to set your course toward positivity and caring for yourself despite the tumultuous world circumstances. Even amid grief and loss you’re facing today, you can walk through the next days and months with hope, purpose and clarity.

Sarah-Beckman

Sarah Beckman

Speaker, Pastor, and Bestselling Author of Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places

Mental-Health-Month-Activities

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

Happy-Employees

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: http://compassiongames.org/

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 https://www.thewmhi.com/mental-health-awareness-posters

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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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RUOK-day-blog3

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

RUOK-day-blog3

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.

RUOK-day-blog

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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Mental-Stigma-And-Stress-In-The-Workplace

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.

Mental-Stigma-and-Stress-in-the-workplace

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.

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Rise-of-the-robots

The Rise Of The Robots

How Is Artificial Intelligence Impacting Our Mental Health?

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

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

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

As Elon Musk recently said,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck 🙂

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Legal-Risks-vs-human

What Are The Legal Risks Of Choosing A ‘Humane’ Path When Managing Performance Of Someone With A Mental Health Problem?

Legal risks vs humanI recently presented as a speaker at an ‘Employment Law for HR Managers’ Masterclass, held in Sydney. It was quite an interesting experience. First, because the focus was on employment law, whereas my specialty as a psychologist is in mental health, and also because I was engaged as a panelist, alongside three lawyers. It did make sense though – they were looking for the ‘human’ angle, wanting to balance legal considerations with what is best for the person experiencing mental health problems.

So that presented the first challenge – the legally ‘right’ thing to do is so often pitted against the morally ‘right’ thing, or at least the ‘nice’, person centred way of doing things. In fact, one of the questions asked directly reflected this:

“What are the legal risks of choosing a ‘humane’ path, when managing the performance of someone with a mental health problem?”

At that moment I thought one of the lawyers in the room was going to stand up and say “I object your honour, that question is leading the witness!” It was, after all, a leading question that makes the assumption that the humane approach may be somewhat riskier than the non-humane approach. But no, no one objected. Shame. In my opinion, a humane path reduces the legal risks, not increases it!

And let me back that up with evidence. Studies from the medical field show that patients are more likely to sue their doctor, even if the doctor didn’t actually do anything technically wrong, if their bedside manner was poor. And, on the flip side, people are less likely to sue a doctor who did make a clinical mistake, if they had a good bedside manner, showed respect, and listened to the person’s concerns. It seems we just don’t want to take legal action if the person was ‘nice!’.


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Apply this back in the workplace to performance management. A ‘humane path’, a path which is compassionate towards the person, is much less likely to end in legal problems,.

But what this question reveals to me, and what became apparent at the masterclass, was that we seem to have different ideas about what a humane path looks like.

There was an underlying assumption that a humane path meant not following through on the performance management process, stalling and delaying taking any action or follow through. It’s almost as if ‘humane’ was akin to not upsetting the person at all.

I would argue that that is actually not very humane at all. You see, sometimes as managers, we think, if we’re a bit more lenient, or we make allowances for the person, they’ll appreciate it and we won’t have to face a disgruntled employee. Now I’m all for having flexibility. Flexibility is key, but when we’re talking about things which really bend the line on what’s acceptable, that’s something else. And in fact, what happens when you deviate from the agreed fair performance management process, is that it creates all sorts of confusion for the person. When a person is experiencing a mental health problem, often it can be really hard to think clearly, or to remember details, people describe it like a ‘fog’ in their thinking. That’s just one of the reasons why, for their sake, it is really important to stick to the process. Not only that, but think about what messages are being sent to the rest of the team by accepting poor behaviour or performance from one person? Here’s just a few ideas: compassion is compromise, the leader shows favouritism, lower standards are ok, the leader is weak and can’t stick to what they said, maybe if I acted like that… you see where I’m headed. What about the message being sent to the person? The person could be hearing a number of things: ie ‘if you are anxious, depressed or stressed, you can’t cope with the job’

And yes, sometimes, in extreme cases, sticking to process will mean eventually letting a person go. If they are simply not able to perform the inherent requirements of the job, or they consistently breach conduct requirements, then it can be the best thing for everyone – the business of course, but also for them, to be let go. I’ve seen way too many organisations hold jobs open for people for way too long. They’re trying to be kind, but in fact the person would be much better off in a completely different field or industry.

So what does ‘humane’ mean then? It means being compassionate in your communication towards the person, while you stick to the process! It means respecting the person, the human, even if you don’t respect their behaviour. It means allowing them dignity through the process and ensuring the process is dignified. And THAT can actually be life changing for people.

Author: Emi Golding
Emi-Golding-blog-imageEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

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Man-thinking

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

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

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

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What if I make it worse?

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

I really don’t have time for this.

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

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

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Mechanics-talking-mental-health

If you are asking ‘R U OK?, you are a little late

Here in Australia, we recently celebrated RUOK day. Its an annual reminder to check in with friends and colleagues on their mental health. I think it’s a great initiative, bringing much needed awareness to mental health issues, in an attempt to reduce stigma.

And I always struggle with it too, because as a manager, if you are asking ‘R U OK?’, it’s quite possible that you are already behind the eight ball. It often means there’s a problem already and you’ve left it go on too long, to the point where now you’re noticing the signs that the person might not be ‘OK’.

Of course, if that’s the case, it’s a good idea to step in and ask the question, and respond accordingly of course. (Note: if you or your team don’t know what to do after asking the question, it’s a good idea to get some training in that).

But as good as asking that question is, and as good as it may feel to ask, as managers, we can do better. What can you do to help your team BEFORE it gets to the point of asking RUOK?

Read more on workplace wellbeing…


Let’s see:

Firstly, mental health problems happen in a context. That’s why people from lower economic backgrounds are more likely to be unwell. That’s why people under pressure tend to experience stress. That’s why staff without clear guidance and vision, falter.

Second, managers, whether we like it or not, we are in our team’s ‘public eye’. Our team member are watching us. And they watch for incongruencies, in what we say, what we do and how we respond to situations. It’s a bit like when parents who smoke tell kids ‘smoking is bad for you’. The kid registers ‘smoking has to be really good if you do it anyway!’. Most of this exchange is not happening at the tangible, physical level, it’s happening at the psychological, and mostly unconscious, level.

See you may think you have the upper hand. And in a sense, you do! You have a lot of power in the eyes of your staff. You are the one who appraises their performance, and makes the big decisions. But let’s not be deluded here. Our staff are appraising us every moment of everyday. And it is precisely because we have been given that power, by virtue of our job title, that people will start to watch us more, and even worry about us. You see, they are not necessarily appraising YOU, but how their relationship with you is traveling. ‘Does my manager like me?’, ‘Are they happy with my work?’, ‘How are we doing?’ ‘R WE OK?’. And the answer to that question will make all the difference to how your people interact with you, how they  engage with their work, and how their mental health and wellbeing is.

The smart manager will handle this question, not by asking RUOK? But by regularly reassuring your team members that ‘WE R OK’. For a mentally healthy team, this is now part of your job as a manager.

Of course, you don’t want to over do it, or under do it – you’ll need to get the balance just right.

So, what are some tips for spreading the WE R OK message?

  • Make sure you connect with all your reports regularly
  • Diarise at least once a month for an individual catch up with your key people
  • EXPRESS how important they are to you i.e. some managers use that opportunity to remember why the person was hired (as a positive experience)
  • Be human, share of yourself appropriately i.e. what you did on the weekend, something about your hobbies, or travels.
  • Don’t share inappropriately i.e. how terribly depressed/stressed/angry/lost you are at the new venture
  • Set a clear vision for your team and regularly talk about it
  • Continue to tell your people ‘WE R OK’

If you do these, you’ll see a remarkable improvement both in the mental health of your team and the levels of engagement.

Let me know your thoughts and how you went.

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

Stress at workplace

What Can YOU Do About Stress at Work?

StressWhen it comes to workplace stress, and what to do about it, most people, most managers, will start to think about things in the workplace environment. Things that I would call ‘external factors’ like workload, overtime hours, the physical environment, etc. And these are all good considerations.

Yes, we should look at them.But very rarely is any attention paid to the ‘internal factors’. Those qualities, characteristics, or skills that reside inside each individual, and impact upon how much stress they will experience, regardless of the external environment. You see, in the same workplace, given the same conditions, different people will experience different levels of stress. Some people thrive on a challenge, work non stop and love doing it! Where as others seem to fall apart at the same challenges.There are individual differences, but that’s not to say that they are necessarily fixed. The studies are indicating that although people may be born with different sensitivities, and have different experience in their upbringing, personal resilience can be learned, like any other skill.

Therefore, when people respond differently to a pressure-filled environment, like many workplaces are, that is due to a combination of things relevant to the individual.


Read more on workplace stress….


As we’ve talked about previously, in our article Workplace Stress we all fall somewhere on the mental health continuum, and that can change day to day, hour to hour, minute by minute even! So if we’re already feeling a bit stressed by other things going on in life, chances are we’re going to have a bigger reaction to each new challenge put forward.

Think of the analogy to the camel carrying straws on it’s back. We can carry only so much weight before we start to feel a bit strained by it all, and our knees start to shake.

But if we’re the camel, we can also build our muscles so that we become stronger, and able to carry more weight with ease. And that is ‘personal resilience’ or ‘emotional fitness’. If we do certain things to build our emotional stamina, when life (or work) does throw that extra challenge your way, you’ll be much more able to handle it in your stride.

We recently released our on line short course called [email protected], which introduces people to some of those techniques that can be used to minimise stress and build emotional stamina or resilience. It’s designed with workplaces in mind, but really, the strategies are tools that can be used in any area of life – after all, we’re still human wherever we are, right?

Building your own personal resilience, focussing on those internal factors, is particularly helpful for those people who might not be in a position to change their work environment. Similarly for managers, if you can’t make changes to the workplace itself, why not think about helping your team members to develop their emotional fitness to better handle the challenges.

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

Better-worse

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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