Engaging with employees who show signs of negative mental health

So you’ve noticed a few frequent behaviours that are out of the ordinary with a team or staff and it’s causing you concern. You’ve decided it’s time to engage with them to see how they are. What do you do now?

Below are some top tips on how to compassionately engage with them.

Choose a safe space to talk 

Pick somewhere private and quiet where the person feels comfortable and equal. A neutral space if possible outside of the workplace is great. If they are a remote worker, consider whether going to where they are may help.

Practice active listening 

People can find it difficult to talk about their mental health, especially when you ask too many closed questions. Ask simple open and non judgemental questions. Be patient and give them space to talk. Focus on the issues and behaviours – not the person.

Avoid making assumptions

Don’t try to guess what symptoms an employee might have or the reasons for them. 

Be honest and clear

If certain behaviours are causing you concern, such as high absence levels or anti-social behaviour, it’s important to address these at an early stage.

Ensure confidentiality

This is critical. The person talking to you needs to feel reassured of confidentiality. They are talking to you about sensitive personal information. If you would like to share any information they have told you, seek their permission. However, you should have policies in place on what to do if the person has shared information that indicates they are a serious harm to themselves or others. 

Develop a clear action plan 

Work with your employee to develop a clear action plan on steps they can take to better improve their mental health. This should include regular agreed check ins, processes for raising concerns early and where to seek support. 

Encourage them to seek advice and support 

They are not alone. You can gently encourage them to speak to their GP if they feel it’s right for them, or seek counselling or hypnotherapy support via Paranimo. 

Remember to look after yourself

Having conversations like these can be emotionally intense, so make sure you seek advice and support for yourself if you feel you need to. It’s important to practice what you preach, which will add credibility to when you offer advice and support to people to look after their own mental wellbeing. 

More resources

Signs someone might be about to leave

This isn’t so much focused on the wellbeing side. This is about the natural progression through a role in the broader career context. People will eventually want new challenges and opportunities and there is real value in the accumulate experience staff collect over time. It could be a good idea to keep an eye out

What issues to address between co-workers

By this we mean what problems can arise between peers that can have a toxic effect on the culture. It’s not just the management that set the cultural tone, the interaction between staff will shape the perception of the company environment. These are things the “easy wins” that you, as a manager, can try to

Red flags for staff and warning signs for managers

These are things I’ve heard consistently recommended to listen out for in employers and, as such, are things to avoid as managers and leaders. If you get the impression staff are viewed as replaceableIt’s fallacious reasoning on the part of the employer most of time. Either someone did a poor job selecting the new hire