Spotting issues and early identification

How to spot negative mental wellbeing in your team

No matter how well employees are managed, people will experience negative mental health issues while at work.

As a manager who has responsibility for employees, it’s important to be able to spot signs of poor mental health in your team – especially if you want to create a culture that cares about the mental wellbeing of its staff.

Spotting signs early could help to nip problems in the bud before they escalate into a crisis or absence. 

But what are the signs?

What to look out for

As a manager, you should form a good understanding of typical behaviours from your employees.

The key is to notice changes of behaviour that deviate from the norm, which could, but not always, be due to negative mental wellbeing issues. 

Symptoms and signs will vary, as each person’s experience of poor mental health is different, but there are some common signs to look out for. 

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published a list of the most commonly observed signs of negative mental wellbeing.

Physical signs

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Joint and back pain
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Viable trembling or tension
  • Nervous trembling speech
  • Chest or throat pain
  • Sweating
  • Constantly feeling cold


  • Anxiety or distress
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling low
  • Mood changes
  • Indecision
  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of humour
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Distraction or confusion
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Lapses in memory
  • Illogical or irrational thought processes
  • Difficulty taking information in
  • Incdreased suicidal thoughts


  • Increased smoking and drinking
  • Using recreational drugs
  • Withdrawal
  • Resigned attitude
  • Irritability, anger or aggression
  • Over-excitement or euphoria
  • Restlessness
  • Constant negative time management
  • Working far longer hours
  • Intense or obsessive activity
  • Repetitive speech or activity
  • Impriared or inconsistent performance
  • Uncharacteristic errors
  • Increased sickness absence
  • Over reactions to problems
  • Disruptive or anti-social behaviour

However, if one or more of these signs is observed, this doesn’t always mean the employee has a mental health problem and instead could be a sign of another health issue or something else entirely. 

Always take care not to make assumptions.

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