Test your knowledge about some of the approaches to workplace mental health issues found within this website.
Communications strategies managers can use for successful performance management should stay focused on the positives. This may include discussions that highlight the strengths the employee brings to the table as well as solutions to address any issues that may be affecting an employee's performance.
Create a positive environment by understanding that constructive feedback and positive reinforcement are the cornerstones of effective performance management. Performance management should never be harshly critical or primarily negative. Many mental health conditions include repetitive negative self-talk. This means that these individuals may constantly engage in internal dialogue such as "I am such a loser. No one cares. I will never get this right," etc. Ironically, what you might hear from this same person is defensiveness, justification and bravado. This may be used to mask the fear that others will find out what they are really struggling with internally. To cut through this self-talk we need to help stop the process by focusing on possible solutions and helping the individual get there, rather than focusing on the problem and turning up the volume on the negative self-talk.
Be prepared to listen at least as much as you talk - consider taking an effective listening course.
Read Questions to ask before engaging an employee [PDF] courtesy of Mental Health Works.
Set a positive tone by beginning the performance management process by highlighting the worker's strengths and his or her value to the workplace.
Focus on working on possible solutions to a problem rather than the problem itself throughout the process. This means instead of saying something like "you are always late for meetings" you might say, "I need you to be at meetings at least 1 minute before they start. How can I help you to do that?" It is only a subtle change in language and the intended outcome is the same, but it is much more likely to provide a positive or neutral response. Accusing people of negative or inappropriate behaviour may result in the person feeling compelled to defend or justify his or her actions. This sets you up for an argument that is rarely productive.
Identify, if appropriate, the impact that the particular issue (e.g., late for meetings) has had on the performance or productivity. An example may be "when you are not present at the beginning of the meeting we miss out on your contribution to the issues or we need to take more time to cover the issue again". Where appropriate emphasize that this expectation will be applied to the whole team. Remember to try to keep your voice and body language open and supportive. You are looking for possible solutions with the help of the employee rather than looking to place blame or shame. See Using Body Language courtesy of ChangingMinds.org for more information.
Open the door for an employee to share with you what they feel may be affecting their performance. Ask if there is anything you can do to help him or her do their job better. This approach allows you to offer reasonable accommodation if you think mental illness may be a factor and the response to this should be documented.
Collaborate with the employee to set individual, realistic performance goals and establish dates for giving feedback and measuring progress on reaching those goals.This helps create a more positive working relationship. You will usually have much more long-term success when the employee commits to the goals and how they will be reached.
Periodically discuss the worker's progress against these goals. If goals are not being met, more formal and regular check-ins may be required in accordance with existing company performance management processes.
Ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, time specific, and work-related. For example, if the worker is in sales and falling far below standard targets, consider establishing targets that are reasonably higher than what the employee is currently achieving without immediately going to the standard. Make the first goal attainable given the employee's current well-being. Shorter, smaller increments allow for small victories, which are preferable to larger defeats.
Assess the worker's performance against the established goals at the follow-up review. Give positive reinforcement or constructive feedback where warranted.
Consider whether the worker has sufficient skills, knowledge, resources and time to do the work effectively. If any of these are insufficient provide the necessary supports to increase them.
Often long time workers become out-of-date with their skill set, but may feel that asking for upgrading would make them seem incompetent. Instead, consider making regular refresher or upgrading training a part of everyone's work plan.
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