Mental Illness at Work: What Managers Need to Know

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So, you’re a manager, and you’ve noticed one of your team isn’t performing. Maybe missing deadlines, are late or sick or maybe you observe rising conflict with this person and others in the team. Or maybe you have just found out that one of your employees is struggling with a mental illness. What do you do?

Don’t panic!

1 in 2 of us experience a mental illness at some point in our lives, and many workers spend up to a third of their lives at work. It is no surprise the symptoms of mental illness can affect people’s ability to perform at their optimum. You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed and lack the confidence to effectively manage people and their performance when a mental illness is present (or suspected to be present).

Unfortunately when mental illness is not managed well negative outcomes may arise such as:

  • The person feels unsupported
  • Increased stress for the person and for you
  • Reduced morale
  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Negative attitudes towards management and the organisation.
  • Toxic team environment – others feel as though they have ‘picked up the slack’ and question why the person underperforming is getting ‘special treatment’
  • Bullying and Harassment accusations
  • Workcover claims
  • Cost to business in presenteeism, absenteeism and reduced productivity from the person and potentially those affected by the person’s behaviour, mood, performance and attitude
  • Safety concerns through errors and accidents

The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to help your team succeed.
Here are a few tips:

  • Educate yourself. The first step is to learn as much as you can about mental illness. There are a lot of great resources available online and in libraries. You can also attend courses such as Mental Health First Aid, Clear Conversations for Leaders and Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace
  • Be supportive. Let the employee know that you’re there for them and that you understand that mental illness is a real and serious issue.
  • Encourage them to seek help. If you believe that your employee may need professional help, encourage them to reach out to the appropriate supports
  • Be flexible with reasonable adjustments. If your employee needs accommodations to help them manage their mental illness, be flexible and willing to work with them to find a solution that works for everyone. Remember it is a legal requirement!
  • Create a supportive work environment. Promote a psychologically safe culture, where employees can be vulnerable, and innovate as well as fail. Also, be brave and speak up about mental health challenges.
  • Lead by example – Make sure you are ‘walking the walk’, not just ‘talking the talk’

Here are some additional tips for managing mental illness in the workplace:

  • Be proactive in having performance conversations. Don’t wait for things to get worse before you step in. If you notice that an employee’s performance is slipping, have a conversation with them early on to see if there’s anything you can do to help.
  • Be mindful of your own biases. It’s important to be aware of your own biases when it comes to mental illness. Don’t make assumptions about what an employee is going through or how they should be feeling.
  • Be patient. It takes time to manage mental illness in the workplace. Don’t expect to see results overnight.
  • Get help from experts. If you’re not sure how to best support an employee with mental illness, don’t be afraid to get help from experts. There are a lot of great resources available, including workplace Employee Assistance Programs

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences mental health challenges differently. What works for one person may not work for another. The most important thing is to be understanding and supportive, and to work to treat every situation differently to find a solution that works for the person.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of managers who are promoted because they are good at their jobs, the technical side. But when it comes to people…. well ….they would rather hide in their offices with their doors shut. Gone are the days when leaving your home life at the door should be a core belief of organisations. Home life affects work and vice versa.

Then you have the managers who have amazing people skills but struggle to know how and when to embark on a performance management path. How do I move from supporting someone to performance managing them? So they don’t… and it gets worse.

Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace – What Our Offering Provides:

Our “Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace” program equips leaders with the necessary skills to handle different types of performance and behaviour exhibited by employees with known or suspected mental illnesses. Throughout this training, participants will gain insights into mental illness types, signs, and symptoms, enabling them to engage in constructive conversations and create a supportive workplace environment. The program also emphasizes fair and respectful performance management techniques, empowering leaders to address issues effectively while maintaining a positive relationship with their team members.

Delivery mode and length

  • Online and F2F
  • Small – medium-sized groups (recommended minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 for online training).
  • 4 hours

Delivery outcomes

By the end of the training, participants will have gained:

  • A clear understanding of which type of management interventions are required, based on the frequency, severity, and intensity of the issues at hand
  • An understanding of the key areas of failure that commonly occur in managing these situations
  • The opportunity to workshop the different management responses in a skills-based format
  • The opportunity to reflect on boundaries and burnout as leadership risks within this issue


This training can help leaders to:

  • Effectively manage performance or behaviour issues related to mental illness
  • Understand the key areas of failure that commonly occur in managing these situations
  • Develop skills-based responses to different types of problematic performance/behaviour
  • Reflect on boundaries and burnout as leadership risks within this issue

This training is a valuable resource for leaders who need to manage performance or behaviour issues related to mental illness. It provides participants with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively manage these situations and avoid the common pitfalls.

If you are interested in this training, please contact us for more information.