When someone is dragging…

Photo of a man in a business suit with his head on the desk, asleep.Is someone on your team dragging?

It’s hard to know what to do when a team member who’s typically a good performer starts dragging, slowing down, being less responsive, turning in lower-quality work, and just isn’t . quite . there.

There’s a lot of emphasis on employee mental health these days, which on the one hand is a great thing … and on the other hand, I wonder: are we putting too much emphasis on the need for managers to be involved with their people’s mental health?

If you’ve read any of my work, you know I’m adamant about the importance of organizations taking employee wellbeing seriously. The most significant factor in any employee’s experience – and therefore in their performance – is their manager and the culture of the team and the organization as a whole.

But managers and leaders are neither equipped nor qualified to support real mental health issues, and expecting anything different is potentially damaging and even disastrous. It’s never been easy to be a first-line or middle manager, and the realities of today’s workplace have made it even more difficult. They have enough to contend with in our uncertain, wobbly world without adding the mental health of their teams to an already overloaded plate.

I’m glad employee mental health has become a topic of serious conversation. And I’m completely on board with managers and leaders being aware of their people’s state of mind – being what I call “professionally empathetic.” But professional empathy and emotional intelligence aren’t innately natural for most people; they need to be taught and practiced, and the appropriate boundaries need to be in place. And managers need to know what mental health resources the company has available when needed.

Your best managers are reading about, and probably experiencing first-hand, the impact of mental health on their teams, and they may already be feeling the weight of expectations around how they’re supposed to be managing those issues. They need guidance and support.

So yes, for certain, let’s take mental health seriously. This is a great advance in improving the ways in which we work. But let’s really take it seriously, and not just dump responsibility for it on our first-line managers and HR teams – which is what I fear I’m seeing happening.

There’s a reason why mental health professionals go through years of education and supervised practice before becoming licensed.

What’s your approach to helping managers understand these issues? Want to discuss how to help prepare your managers to handle them? Contact me to learn more.