We are told frequently that up to one in four people in the UK will, at some time in their lives, have need to call on the support of mental health services. This figure is not just given as a frightener, it’s true. Serious mental health conditions are not restricted to any one group or category of people; it can affect any person, no matter their status or social, cultural or ethnic group. Indeed, every so often high profile celebrities come out as having a condition; recently Katherine Zeta Jones has been admitted to a psychiatric clinic suffering with bipolar disorder http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/13088787.
It does not take any great mathematician to calculate that we are all likely to have colleagues at work who will be one of those 25%, diagnosed with depression, anxiety or a more sever psychotic illness, or perhaps it will be you or me! Are there advanced symptoms we should learn to recognise?
Recognising signs of stress and anxiety in the workplace is one of the many tasks for managers. Is a member of your team exhibiting those signs – changes in behaviour, being short tempered and likely to snap, less tolerant of other people, putting on excessive weight or losing it, developing poor time keeping or periods of absenteeism, poor work output and unusually missing deadlines or targets – the list could go on.
Employers and managers invariably respond to these issues as capability problems, which may lead to discipline and even dismissal, but are they perhaps pointers towards the a stress related or mental health problem. I am not suggesting that managers should be trained in mental health diagnosis and certainly not advocating amateur psychiatry. Indeed, many people would not even recognise these symptoms in themselves. So what should the role of the manger be in these circumstances? Certainly not to jump to a conclusion in either direction; neither sending someone directly to their doctor for a diagnosis nor beginning a disciplinary process based on capability.
Perhaps a starting point could be a quite chat; “I have noticed that there has been a change in …” is a good way to begin. Sometime just the fact of simple dialogue is what is important – not shying away from the issues presented and being as supportive as possible.
For those of us that have had caring managers, we know how supportive they can be. However, most of us could also point a finger at the less caring or unsupportive managers too. Which one are you? If a member of your team is in need and not coping, do you first go to the capabilities section of the staff handbook or do you look to find out what is going wrong. Perhaps a large part of a successful outcome actually lies with you.
Remember, poor management behaviour causes stress and anxiety in the workplace. Take responsibility and minimise it!