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5 ways managers can discuss mental health at work without overstepping


Supporting employees has been a major investment by many companies mental healthDespite the pandemic stress levels and anxiety were high,

Deborah Grayson Riegel says that one key to addressing workplace burnout is teaching managers how they can talk with their employees about mental well-being. authorA management speaker who was trained at Columbia Business School as well as Wharton.

But, managers worry that bringing up your mental health at the workplace could cause conflict with their personal boundaries. Riegel explains. CNBC Make It.

Managers will often say that there is a stigma to the topic, they don’t like to be questioned, and/or it’s too risky. What if the manager brings up something I don’t know how to deal with?

These five tips will help managers lead difficult discussions about mental health.

1. Recognize that the conversation might not be easy

There are many factors that affect how comfortable people feel about discussing their mental health.

Managers should acknowledge that the subject can be difficult to handle. Riegel recommends that managers start the conversation by saying, “I would like to speak to you about something which may feel a bit awkward but I am going to embrace it because I care about your feelings.”

Use a neutral scale to frame the discussion. Consider this example: If you have a scale from 1-10, where 1 is completely exhausted and 10 indicates that you are ready to take on more work, what’s your current energy level? You can also refer to the following: What is your current weather pattern? Are you feeling stormy or clear? Or are there hints of sunshine in the clouds?

It is possible to set the mood by sharing your answers first. This can help create trust and psychological safety. While it might not feel easy to openly share your troubles, sharing your own can help your employees feel more confident about their experiences.

2. You can’t leave anyone behind

Riegel suggests that your report should be informed in advance of when you will check in on them. Also, assure them that this conversation is being had with all members of the team. They don’t feel isolated for their performance problems and can see that the team is working together.

It’s important to make it clear that the check-ins don’t focus on status updates and to-do lists. However, you are open to listening to what is causing anxiety and stress at work and at home.

Riegel recommends that you also make time for one-on-one meetings to get feedback from people about their personal lives and work. Let’s start by asking, “Let us put work aside for another.” What are your activities outside work?

3. Share with them that they aren’t required to

It will take practice to discuss mental health at work. Riegel suggests that you check in regularly. “We don’t tend to reach out once because it feels awkward and we don’t want overstep. But please do not reach out to only one time.” Today’s feelings may not be the same as yesterday’s.

Let your employees know that they are free to share any information they do not feel comfortable sharing.

Riegel says: “I ask you to share, because I care about your well-being. It’s not necessary to answer. It’s not my intention to probe. However, I will be happy to speak about any subject you choose.

Her comments emphasize the importance of approaching these conversations with an inclusive lens that considers diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. “There are substantial cultural differences in how people approach asking for help,” Riegel said, especially among employees who come from underrepresented or don’t feel safe at work.

4. When to put it down

It’s a sign that your employee doesn’t want to talk to you about certain issues. They might respond in a consistent manner to say everything is fine, or they move to shift the topic. This will let you know it’s time for you to quit bringing the matter up.

Riegel advises that this can be done openly. He says that you could also say it out loud. Do you want me to quit asking questions?

5. Recognize when you’re not the greatest resource