Mental health continues to be a major focus as we progress into 2023. With burnout, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions on the rise, it is imperative that employers have a plan in place to assist employees when the need arises. Leaders are often uncertain how to navigate these areas because, typically, the direction has been to avoid prying into an employee’s personal health information. Respecting an employee’s privacy continues to be the right approach; however, when a leader notices a concerning change in an employee’s normal behavior or performance over time, the leader should privately talk with the employee using a respectful, fact-based approach.
These types of conversations can be very awkward but when handled correctly, both the employee and the employer benefit. There are a few key things to remember when planning these conversations: select a location where others can’t overhear the conversation and use specific examples of changed behavior or performance. You may be wondering how to start the conversation so here are a couple of examples to help you frame your own approach:
- “I’ve noticed that you aren’t as talkative or engaged in our team meetings as you have been previously and I’m concerned about you. Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?”
- “I’ve noticed that the last 3 reports you have completed have been late and contained errors, which is unlike your normal work performance. Has something happened that caused this change?”
While sometimes we’d prefer to plan every step of the conversation in advance, these conversations are best handled based on the responses you receive. If the response is related to a mental health condition, it’s a good idea for the leader to be prepared to offer options for assistance to the employee. Remember, as a leader, your role is not to be a counselor or therapist but to point employees to available resources.
Prior to the meeting, find out if your company has an Employee Assistance Program, often referred to as an EAP. If so, have that information available, in case the employee’s response is related to mental health. Another option is to remind the employee about the health care plan, assuming coverage is available to the employee and that it provides mental health benefits. Don’t just send them to HR because the employee may not be comfortable asking about EAP information or mental health benefits.
If your employee is experiencing a mental health crisis and needs immediate assistance, a third option is to share about 988, the National Mental Health Crisis line that was launched in July 2022. They can respond appropriately to the employee’s situation.
One final reminder: mental health conditions, just like many other medical conditions, can fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). If your company is unsure how to navigate situations related to these topics, The People Perspective is available to provide you the assistance you need.