"Does having a mental illness make you more competent?" with Rosa Ponce de Leon, Leadership Strategist

Does having a mental illness make you more competent?

I hate to break it to you, but we all have mental health issues. When it comes to dealing with these issues, we have two options: Sweep them under the rug or address them. If we choose to sweep them under the rug, they will eventually come to the surface and most likely be an even bigger problem than if we had dealt with them head on in the first place.

Having a mental illness may make you MORE competent because of the preparation you need to take in order to show up for work. You become attune and sensitive to your self awareness. To correct and create new pathways of thought requires self awareness. Someone who has put in the work knows how to slow down and correct it.

This is hugely beneficial to your team. The person who has overcome their own issues is not only proactive in overcoming their shortcomings, but can more easily see it in someone else and help them overcome their issue as well.

5 tips to talk to someone who you think might have mental illness:

  1. Don’t assume. Be open minded and whether than make an assumption, inquire. 
  2. Ask yourself why you’re reaching out. Is it because you want to fix it or because you really care? If you’re doing it just because you want to fix it and it’s best for business, it’s less about the person and more about you. If you’re doing it because you care, you’re showing genuine compassion.
  3. Acknowledge that everyone is different. If you suspect someone is dealing with a mental illness, don’t ignore the feeling. Too many times we feel that it’s not our place to say anything or we anticipate a negative reaction, and we stop ourselves from reaching out.
  4. Be clear on what observations are causing you to be concerned and be clear with your objective. Say things like, ”You’re not yourself when you do a, b, c…” Show them that you’ve observed them long enough and done your homework. Give them space to figure it out for themselves after you’ve inquired. Be patient.
  5. Have support to offer. Have resources available for when they are ready, whether that’s extra support from you, peer support, or an employee assistance program. 

Do you think your employee might need some extra support from you? Here are a few ways to start that conversation.

First rule of thumb, your employees know what they need better than you do. Start by asking, “How can I support you in this?” Don’t assume you know what they need, let them tell you. 

Next, be prepared to accommodate their needs. Accommodating them may mean being prepared to offer them a flexible schedule, a less demanding project, or a flexible workload. Your role as the leader is to give them space and make adjustments so they can get better. Offer them the job security so they don’t feel the added pressure of potentially losing their job.

Come to an agreement together. Regardless of the way you’re accommodating their needs, don’t be the one to impose. Decide on a plan of action together. They must be willing to uphold their end of the bargain and take the steps necessary to get better. If not, you’ve done your part and it’s not on you anymore.

Are you keeping their privacy in mind?

Remember the golden rule of treating people how you’d want to be treated? That’s the same when it comes to being discreet about someone’s health issues. It’s your job to be discreet through practice and through established policies, their privacy is important.

People can disclose what they want. If they start to overshare, you can remind them that certain details are best left with their doctor. If you start to ask too many questions, they may start to feel as if you don’t trust them. So resist asking them what medications they are taking or details about their injury. If they want to tell you, they will. And when they do, delicately handle their private information. Ask for and look for ways to accommodate their needs without judgment.

Assigning a liaison when dealing with grief.

Grief is a deep, overwhelming emotion that causes everyone to react differently. If you have an employee who is dealing with grief, find a peer or someone who is close with them in the organization to be a liaison. Think of this liaison as the single point of contact.

Does that person dealing with grief want to talk about it at work? Or are they coming to work as an escape and don’t want it brought up as a topic of discussion? The liaison acts as a facilitator and figures out how the team can offer support. 

In Powerful at Work Radio, Episode #52, Margo Fowkes shares her powerful story of how she was supported during a difficult moment. Tune in to get inspired and learn how you can best help your employees deal with grief

5 things you can do to make employees feel good.

  1. Say “Thank you” for their work. Someone doesn’t have to be going above and beyond to be doing a good job. Show your appreciation and make them feel seen.
  2. Make it fun. Can you add an element of gamification or create a shared activity? Something like a Fantasy Football tournament is a fun way to engage everyone on the team. One important thing to note, try to steer away from making Happy Hour your go-to activity. It’s not a great idea for someone trying to overcome a mental health issue.
  3. Ask them how they prefer to be thanked. Some of us like to be publicly acknowledged while others prefer a private note. We all have our own “love language” so ask the people on your team how they prefer to be appreciated.
  4. Keep the conversation open. Don’t wait for your employees to do something great to engage with them. Have frequent chats so that you can not only spot when their behavior is “off” but you can anticipate their needs and be ready to accommodate them.
  5. Show them you care regularly. Doing many small things is better than one grand gesture. Don’t wait until they’ve finished that project or are ready to put in their notice to show appreciation. Do it now and do it frequently.

“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.” — Steven Aitchison


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