Test your knowledge about some of the approaches to workplace mental health issues found within this website.
The Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace supported Mental Health Works, an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association, in the development a workshop entitled "Advanced Strategies: Working through the tough stuff". What follows is an outline of the model for addressing emotional or complex issues with employees. Click on each step for more information.
Before engaging an employee in a conversation about a potentially emotional or complex issue, look behind the behaviours you are witnessing to consider what else may be going on. The document Questions to ask before engaging is a series of questions to ask yourself about the situation in order to go beyond the obvious. Understanding that behaviours are simply strategies to meet underlying needs or respond to underlying thoughts can help us to reconsider our first assumptions about other people's behaviour in the workplace.
Stepping back is something we need to do when a situation is creating an emotional response in us or is something that is especially complex. If we are reacting emotionally to an employee, it is much more likely that this response is about our underlying thoughts or needs than it is about the employee in question. To understand this, we need to also understand what our own emotional triggers are and how they affect our responses to others. For example, if you are someone for whom passive aggressive behaviours conjure up images of a parent who used this approach in a way that was distressing for you, and you do not understand the source of it, you are more likely to attribute negative motives to an individual who uses passive aggressive behaviours to simply cope with an inability to be assertive. This negative assumption may then colour your reaction to their behaviours in a way that may be very dysfunctional. Stepping back to examine our own reactions is one way to be able to focus on the solution more effectively.
Stepping back is also necessary when we are unsure of what is going on and of the perspective of the employee. Learning to listen effectively in order to understand how another person sees the situation, instead of assuming they have the same perspective that we hold, may avoid misunderstanding and working at cross purposes. This also allows us to be much more effective in moving forward.
Relationships are built on trust. Trust is a combination of an individual's faith in our character and our competence. If employees feel we are not acting with integrity, they may be less likely to trust us. Additionally, if an employee feels we are incompetent in resolving issues effectively, they may not trust us to do so. Without some level of trust, we cannot open the door to effective solutions.
When we or a group of "experts" impose solutions on others in the workplace, they may be compelled to comply. When we help employees unlock their own strategies for success, they are more likely to be committed to working towards the solutions they have created. This skill set of coaching and supporting employees towards their own success takes time and practice, but the return on investment can be significant.
We keep the door open to solving issues in two ways. One is to follow up and follow through when we work with employees on strategies. The other is to look at organizational, systemic or cultural issues that may be impacting the mental health of employees and finding ways to make sure this impact is positive. For more information see Prevention & Promotion.