9 key learnings from 15 years of delivering mental health training workplace – Part 3

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This is the third post in the series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 here

5. People worry about ‘overstepping the line’

One of my key things I drum into my participants is the need to get curious. Yet so many people I meet are scared to ask the right questions because they believe they are meddling or overstepping a line into someone’s personal life.

Let me be clear – Getting curious is a pathway to trust and shows you really care about the person and their situation. Now obviously there is curiosity and there is curiosity. The former is asking specific questions to learn more about the person and their individual situation so offer the appropriate emotional and practical support. The latter kind is being nosy for the sake of it.

So next time someone says they’re tired or stressed? Don’t offer them your herbal remedy or cousins, sisters, brothers cure for something, ask why (refer point 7 about being a fixer.)

6. Managing Performance and supporting mental health is a balancing act

A lot of leaders, managers and supervisors struggle to navigate the line between supporting someone in the workplace and managing their performance.

My opinion? Unless there is a direct safety risk, I would never start with performance related concerns. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t start a conversation with ‘I have noticed you have been late a few times this week, is everything alright?’ but it is about making it really clear that it is not about their work, but about them because you care about them.

Performance Management is never the best place to start. In Fact it can actually compound the problem for them and make situations worse. The best place to start? With the WHY. Think of it like an iceberg – the tip above the water line is the things we see – absenteeism, presenteeism, conflict, missed deadlines, withdrawal, bad attitude… What is going on under the water line? Relationship breakdown, sick child, domestic violence, dying parent, workplace stress, depression, anxiety… there are endless potentials. But unless you start with the why, you will never know!

Now that does not mean there is not a time or a place for performance management. In fact, quite the opposite. You absolutely do need to manage performance and you need to do it early. Many managers and supervisors ignore it and hope it goes away… guess what? It rarely does and now we find ourselves getting HR involved and all of that unpleasantness.

Suggestion? Start with the why, do everything you can (reasonably for both the person and the business) to support them, and if nothing changes or they don’t want your help –you need to manage performance.