Why don’t leaders take mental health seriously?
As mental health month approaches in October, I’ve been reflecting on the question I hear most often from Human Resources and OH&S professionals:
“Why don’t our managers take the mental health of their employees seriously?”
I know from first-hand experience, that most managers would like to create a healthy and productive environment, but I think we in the mental health community have made 2 major mistakes.
- Mental health is positioned as something “extra”
- We use language they don’t understand
Mental health is positioned as something “extra”
Many managers are overwhelmed at work and the prospect of doing something “extra” is not attractive. Mental health initiatives must be linked to organisational purpose if they are going to gain momentum and prominence. Positive leadership produces performance and mental health for employees and I think our greatest impact will come when leaders believe, and act on this knowledge. Some specialist expertise is required when an employee is highly stressed and dysfunctional, but ultimately, the greatest payback will be when sustainable cultures are created that enhance rather than destroy mental health.
We talk a language they don’t understand
At a recent workplace mental health conference, there were frequent mentions of terms you would never hear in a business meeting. For example, speakers advocated the need to create “safe psychosocial environments”. Using language like this will often alienate line managers and prompt them to put it in the “too hard” basket. If instead we promote the business benefits of creating caring cultures, our probability of being heard and acted on are greatly enhanced.
Having considered these 2 issues in some depth, I am holding a webinar to propose how we should be positioning mental health initiatives to our leaders.