It’s really difficult to be the only one on your team
who feels that things need to change...
- Why so many organizations miss opportunities to improve mental health
- How to get personal buy in from your leaders
- Determining the financial costs of mental health
- How to start with small scale but effective initiatives
Despite high demands from employees, and record levels of workplace stress and burnout, surprisingly few companies are delivering effective solutions. This can be very frustrating for strong leaders who have a real passion for the well-being of their people.
You know that your people are being pushed too much, that communication is frayed, and you see it in the faces of your employees as they become more checked out.
You know that doing nothing will incur more costs, both on employee mental health and company productivity. But getting your leaders to even make time to talk about these issues feels overwhelming. What do you do?
In my years of working with leaders, I’ve discovered some of the best strategies for helping leadership teams reach a shared consensus on employee mental health values.
Get personal buy-in:
I’ve never worked with a company who had a stressed workforce that didn’t have stressed leaders. So you need to assess how your leaders are personally doing. But I mean, how they are really doing.
Many leaders wear their stress as a badge of honor, so simply asking if they’re struggling likely won’t get you far. And anyways the struggle means you're working hard, right? So we need to find the right language to really connect with them. You could talk about restless nights spent worrying about deadlines, or frustrating communication issues within the organization. Find something that will get a "that's right" response from them.
You can open up these conversations by leading yourself. Saying things like “I’ve had such a long to-do list lately that I have a hard time not thinking about work when with my family” may get some nods of agreement. It takes some courage to do this. But when you share your experience, you're opening a door for them to also be courageous.
Be real about the financial costs of mental health:
Do you know how much it costs your organization to lose an employee? The average numbers are over half of their salary. But, do you know how much poor mental health has contributed to turnover in your organization? Usually when employees leave for these issues, they skimp out on the exit interviews - they're already completely checked out. So, it can be hard to really track these costs.
But between turnover, medical leave of absences, lost productivity, and poor internal communication, mental health has a huge impact on the financial health of a company. Is your organization currently tracking these costs? You're likely leaving lots of money on the table.
Framing mental health as something that incurs costs just makes it more acceptable for your leadership team to spend time investigating them.
If your team doesn't know the costs (most don't), then you may have to be the one to bring it to their attention. Initially they may find this disruptive, but the bottom line here is you're working to help save the organization money. Double down on the value of this, and let your team come together to determine the solutions.
Seek out allies in your cause:
Obviously finding any other leaders who also understand that mental health is taking a toll are important. I've found that when problems are pervasive in an organization, most people are aware of them, even if they stay silent. But just because they're silent doesn't mean they don't see the issues as you do. Often it just takes one spark to ignite change.
You can also bring in a licensed professional as an ally. Sometimes a third party is the best way to get your team aligned on an issue that's being overlooked. Additionally there are consultants who can help with tracking costs of mental health, and help deliver solutions.
You take your car to the mechanic for a tune up, you take yourself to the doctor for a physical. You do this because these are professionals who are qualified to catch things before they become chronic.
Really, every organization should have a "check up" to ensure there are not internal mental health and wellness issues that are becoming chronic.
A good workforce mental health professional will similarly assess your organization to get feedback on how your people are really doing. The data will give your team valuable information, get shared buy-in on the issues, and they will also be able to support you in developing initiatives to prevent and reduce future mental health issues.