5 Steps For Managing Workplace Mental Health


🎧 Press PLAY to hear the blogs author read it to you. 🎧

Risk Assessment. Interaction. Giving Encouragement. Help. Tools. These 5 steps create the acronym R.I.G.H.T. which is what we’re going to cover in this blog. You can use these steps to not only gain a better insight into the mental health of your team, but you’ll also know steps you can take should their mental health become an area of concern, not only for them, but for the company as well.

Before we get into the five steps, I should start off by disclosing that I’m not a counselor nor therapist of any kind. I’m a Mental Health Advocate who also happens to be a Professional Speaker for Adviser Speaks, I also want to mention that this is a longer than usual blog because it has a ton of information. It could almost be considered an article. That said, I ask you to please bear with me and grant me your patience while I set the stage, sort of speak. I assure you; it’ll help in understanding the importance of the five steps for managing workplace mental health.

When I started speaking professionally during the housing bubble crash of 2007, one of the first programs I created was How To Sell Yourself To Employers. Basically, it educated Job Seekers on how to be more effective in an ‘Employers Market’. But history shows repeatedly over time that employer and employee markets can and do trade places. Fast forward to 2021. Employers are now the ones desperately seeking Employees. So much so that they’re offering large incentives just to encourage applicants to come on-board.

According to a 2019 article in Forbes Magazine, Five Reasons Employees Are Your Company’s No. 1 Asset, employees are a company’s Brand Ambassador and will greatly impact public perception of a company’s brand. It’s also well known that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And once an employee leaves a company, the company’s former Brand Ambassador is now a Turnover Expense for HR. But once a new Brand Ambassador’s on-board, what keeps them on-board? Better yet, what keeps them from deboarding?

So… what does any of this have to do with the five steps? I’m getting to that.

Let’s start from the top of a company hierarchy and work our way down. In this example you’re one of many high-end executives at a large corporation here in Chicago. We’ll call it, The Totally 80’s Corporation. Now The Totally 80’s Corporations’ shareholders are focused on the value of the company’s stock, which is based on profits and loss. Because of this they have high demands on YOUR bosses. The CEOs, CFOs, and the like. There are five managers under you and each of them have ten employees. This puts the number of subordinates The Totally 80’s Corporation holds you responsible for at 55. Now, four of your managers are good managers. One however, is… well… not that good. He’s meeting his quotas, but his department has the highest turnover rate in the company. As a result, the HR Director – in trying to save her own skin – emails the CFO expressing her departments frustrations over the high turnover rate in one specific area. This after giving new Brand Ambassadors large incentives just to come on-board. The next day, the CFO mentions this to the CEO on the golf course. Before you know it, you’re called to the next board meeting and asked to explain – why. Problem is, you have no idea why the manager in question is the way he is. He wasn’t always this way. He went through the same pandemic as everyone else. What happened? Why are so many people from his department leaving the company?

Here’s where the five steps for managing workplace mental health comes into play and might even help you keep your job. For the sake of argument let’s give this ‘manager in question’ a name, like, Bob. Like all the other employees, Bob had a bad 2020. He lost his mother to covid. His wife who’s a nurse, had a stressful year working at the hospital. His son and daughter had to do their high school classes virtually from home. And to top it off, The Totally 80’s Corporation told everyone that they too had to work from home until further notice. All this on top of the ‘normal’ stressors he faced on a ‘normal’ daily basis before the pandemic. Normal stressors like bill due dates. Countless ads on social media. Really long blog posts.

As a result, Bob felt disconnected. Isolated. He had self-doubts and even contemplated suicide on occasion. He thought, ‘if I end it, I won’t be in pain anymore and my family will get a nice lump sum from my life insurance. Plus, I won’t be a burden to them anymore.’ To put it mildly, Bob spent all of 2020 fighting hard against his depression and anxiety. A diagnosis he never shared with his employer because of the stigma associated with mental illness. Unable to overcome these feelings on his own, he began self-medicating with cannabis and alcohol.

After Bob got fully vaccinated, the company allowed him to physically return to the office. Bob thought to himself, ‘Finally, things are starting to get back to normal.’ Problem is, although Bob’s physically back, mentally, he’s not his old self. Bob brought the effects of his 2020 stressors, with him. His depression. His anxiety. His substance use.

And none of them can be turned off like a light switch.

This is when Bobs’ mental illness begins to jeopardize YOUR job. Because if you don’t deal with it effectively, the Board might replace you with someone who will. What can you do? Well, you already noticed Bob’s not his normal self. That’s your first clue. If you notice an employee is behaving differently than they normally do, that’s your first indicator that you need to make things R.I.G.H.T. You do this by sitting down with them privately, and empathically learn more about their situation. Once you’ve empathically learned their situation, you can use the five steps below to make things R.I.G.H.T.

  • Risk Assessment – Is the employee a threat to themselves or others. If so, call 911 immediately.
  • Interaction – In a privet interaction with them, listen. And listen without judging. This will aid in your understanding of their situation. Judged listening only reinforces the stigma.
  • Give them Hope – Note: Advice is not Hope! A lot of well-intended advice has the potential for causing people to disconnect from your Interaction with them and reaffirms the stigma associated with mental illness.
  • Help – Help them navigate your company’s EAP and help them find low-cost professional levels of assistance.
  • Tools – Learn from them what they enjoy doing for fun and relaxation. Enjoyments they can utilize as self-care tools. Then allow them time, off the clock, if need be, to put those self-care tools to work. To companies, Presenteeism is typically 10 times more costly than Absenteeism.

By employing these five steps, you’ll help Bob return to his old self and be a better manager for his team. In return you would have increased Bobs loyalty to the company. Mainly because he’ll know from experience, that his boss genuinely cares about him. I assure you; the management behavior of your new and improved Bob won’t go unnoticed by his ten employees. His employee retention rate will increase, HR will notice, and the Board will see you as the high-end executive that can get things done.

But if you don’t try to make things R.I.G.H.T., your only other option is to fire Bob and ask the company to hire someone else in his place. After all, you don’t know why he’s being the way he is. Let me just say that’s a bad idea. In fact, doing so could jeopardize your job over time, if not right away. Here’s why.

Let’s say your car’s overheating. You take the car to a repair shop for one of the mechanics to look at it. The mechanic pops open the hood, fans the steam away with his hand, scratches his head in confusion and then closes the hood. The shop owner asks the mechanic ‘what’s the problem with that car’? To which the mechanic replies: ‘I don’t know. Beats the heck out of me. My opinion, the owner should just get rid of this car and buy a new one.’

Now ask yourself, how much longer will that mechanic be employed at the shop? Not long I assure you. In every company, a team is like the parts of a car that are designed and expected to work together. Bob is the engine in charge of moving those parts toward a destination or goal. The steam of high turnover is a sign of malfunction. If you don’t manage your team’s mental health effectively and simply tell the Board you don’t know why Bob’s behaving this way and suggest the company simply replace Bob because it’s the easiest option for you, then like the incompetent mechanic, the Board might replace you because it’ll be the easiest option for them.

For your sake and the sake of all the Bob’s in your company, be a good leader and do the R.I.G.H.T. thing.

In closing…

If you or someone you know is living with mental illness here’s something to keep in mind. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Not by a long shot. According to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 Adults experience mental illness each year. (Bob was one of those five) That’s 20%. To give you broader perspective, 20% of the population of the state of Illinois is equal to the population of Chicago. America’s 3rd largest city. You’re not alone. If you or anyone you know needs to talk with someone, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers FREE 24/7 support in both English & Spanish as well as support for Veterans, Hearing Impaired and those affected by Disasters.

For Adviser Speaks, I’m Professional Speaker Paul Calhoun, and YOU have just been advised.

About Paul Calhoun

Chicago based Professional Speaker Paul Calhoun is a 3rd generation Power Broker, multi-published author and mental health advocate. He’s also a Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor. A title accredited him by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing. For more information, CLICK HERE  to download Pauls’ Speaker One Sheet.



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