Employer Mental Health Matters Too

Last month, the ever famous Kanye West called off his international tour "and was hospitalized for exhaustion" and as a result "his band, backup singers, roadies and managers all headed home" (Peters, 2016). One person's inability to work resulted in consequences for the rest of the team. The effects of a leader's mental illness do not remain in isolation; there is almost always an immediate chain reaction.

The internet abounds with resources for employers on how to foster mental wellness in the workplace for their employees. Indeed, they should be mindful of mental health issues that can occur at work, for the sake of their employees and for the sake of productivity. But tips for how to disclose a mental illness, how to recognize burnout, or how to manage stress are usually written for employees. What about the mental health of employers? It matters too!

Employers: Caring for Your Own Mental Health

Having a leadership role at a work often comes with increased responsibilities and greater stress. Due to the nature of your work (delegating tasks, overseeing projects, etc), your mental health can inadvertently affect the morale of your employees. As a leader, you may be inclined to think that you have to "have it together" all the time. This all-or-nothing thinking can only lead to worse consequences down the road. Keep the following in mind when considering the impact of your own mental health at work:

  • Recognize that your role is not easy. It is fair to be feeling overwhelmed/stressed. 
  • Your job is to coach/oversee others, not to do the job of several individuals. If your pile of work seems to be surpassing your work duties, the style of leadership may need to be reevaluated.
  • Just because you are a leader does not mean you must have all the answers. Your employees are part of your team, invite their input on big decisions that you must make.

Employees: What to do If you suspect your boss has mental health issues

Being vocal about your own mental health needs at work can be pretty daunting. However, telling your boss that you are concerned about their mental health can feel light years away from your comfort zone. Suspicion of a mental health issue is not reason enough to be bringing it up. Though, if you feel as if your own wellness and performance are being negatively affected by your boss's mental health, and you feel comfortable with voicing your opionion, below are some tips from Baynton (n.d.) that may help:

  • Bring it up as you would with anyone else who you thought might be going through some mental health issues. Ask them "how are you feeling? You have not been yourself lately."
  • Provide evidence. Be prepared to share some examples of what you have observed that makes you concerned. For example, "you used to always hold Wednesday meetings to check in with everyone, you never do that anymore" or "you don't seem as cheery as usual". Focus on positives and avoid blaming.
  • Be specific about what you need from your boss in order to do your job well. For example: I would like to receive my assignments in writing, I would benefit from a ten minute meeting with you at the end of the week to review my work.
  • Be a stress buster. This will depend on the relationship you have with your boss but small things like, bringing them a cup of coffee/tea when they seem extra stressed, asking them what you can do for them to make their day go smoother, or handing something in ahead of the deadline (if you are able to).
  • Talk to someone who can help, if the above is not successful. This may be a counsellor from the Employee Assistance Program, someone from the board of directors, or a member of the human resources department. Make it clear that you are concerned for their well-being, and avoid an accusatory attitude.  

Would you feel comfortable sharing this type of information with your boss/employer? What makes it easy or difficult to share? Employers, do you find it difficult to fulfill the leadership duties and look after your own mental wellness?

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Baynton, M. A. (n.d.). When the boss may have a mental health issue. Retrieved from http://www.gwlcentreformentalhealth.com/pdf/When_Boss_may_have_Mental_Health_Issue_en.pdf

Peters, D. (2016). Kanye West's mental health issues remind leaders to pay attention in-house. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/kanye-wests-mental-health-issues-remind-leaders-to-pay-attention-in-house/article33121614/