It’s really difficult to be the only one on your team who feels that things need to change...
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 wellbeing 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 have devastating costs, both on employee mental health and company results. But getting your leadership team 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 get a shared consensus on employee mental health.
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, how they are really doing.
Many leaders wear stress as a badge of honor, so simply asking if they’re stressed likely won’t get you far. But you can find the right language to really connect with them. Talk about restless nights spent worrying about deadlines, or frustrating communication issues within the organization.
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. It's easier to do this once it's been modeled for us.
Be firm about the financial costs of poor 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 your organization turnover? Usually when employees leave for these issues, they skimp out on the exit interviews. It can be hard to track this.
Between turnover, medical leave of absences, lost productivity, and poor communication, mental health has a big impact on the financial health of a company. Is your organization currently tracking these costs?
Being clear about the costs make it acceptable for your leadership team to spend time addressing them.
If your team doesn't know the costs, 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 them 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 organizat
ion, most people are aware, even if they stay silent. But just because they're silent doesn't mean they don't feel the issues just like you.
You can also bring in a licensed professional as an ally. Expecting an C-Suite team to know how to address employee mental health and wellness concerns is a setup for failure.
You take your car to the mechanic for a tune up, you take yourself to the doctor for a physical. You do this because they’re qualified to catch things before they become 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.