Leading a Culture of Wellbeing as a Manager
Discovery Health calculated that depression cost South Africa more than R218 Billion in lost productivity and R190bn in presenteeism! Many recognise this as a secondary pandemic and HR departments and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been hard at work over the last few years as both physical and resulting mental illness incidents have increased.
Because of the above mentioned shifts Managers have now taken on a larger role with regards to employee wellness. However there is limited direct guidance and support provided to those of us who hold the title “Manager”. You may be managing a team of 2 or 200, but you are likely less equipped about what your role is relating to managing the mental health and wellbeing of your team. This leads managers to have some of these concerns: Where does my role start and stop? What about boundaries? There is a duty of care… but how much is enough or too much? What if I am not really that keen to get involved in the lives of my team members? And this topic feels eerily like “getting involved”!
We completely hear you! In fact that is the main reason for building our Leading a Culture of Wellbeing path in our Manager to Leader Journey. We are known for practical wisdom for the everyday human that has the functional responsibility to manage and the calling to lead!
The full path has a lot of incredibly valuable content and application exercises for you. But we want you to get a super high level 4 point summary of what we see as the role of managers in this regard:
- As a manager your first responsibility is to put on your own oxygen mask! Don’t exhaust yourself by trying to be all things to all people. Leading yourself well is your responsibility. This means taking care of your own personal wellbeing first. Check out our Wellbeing Check-in Activity, to get started with this and take the first steps.
- Know what resources you have access to within and without your organisation. Prepare an “in case of emergency” resource for yourself. This includes contact numbers for the EAP, counselling resources, learn what they can do and what is not in their scope. Have a few extra resources of your own e.g. a depression and anxiety support group or grief support group in your area.
- Get clear about your personal and professional boundaries. It might be tempting to rescue people or go well beyond your scope as a manager during times of crisis. When you know one of your team members are struggling (financially, physically, mentally), you might find yourself getting your “white horse saddled” so you can ride in and save the day. DON’T. A helpful guiding questions is: Would you be able to do this for everyone in your team if they needed it? (Would you lend money to all of them? Would you hand deliver the documents? Would you fetch their kids from school?). People are unique and how you manage each situation is unique. This is not about being fair or equitable, it is about you knowing what the edge of your role is. You are their manager. Your role is to create a work environment where they can perform at their best. You are not responsible for their whole lives.
- Watch for work impact. The people in your team will no doubt have personal stuff that needs to be managed. This could be grief, trauma, depression, family issues… the list is endless and life happens to all of us. Extending empathy and behaving with compassion is a must. HOWEVER don’t let this be the only way you engage your team member. When team members have had reasonable time off to manage/recover from/work through, there is an expectation of performance. And when their performance consistently does not meet the requirements of their role, action needs to be taken. It is important to be clear about what is being observed in the workplace and deliver this message with kindness, avoiding the conversation can lead to employees feeling “blindsided” when you get to the end of your rope and take more drastic action. When a manager ignores the impact of personal circumstances on how an employee performs, you are essentially saying that this new lower standard is acceptable. Instead, move sooner rather than later towards an open conversation where expectations are clarified, current specific performance gaps are discussed (with examples) and a clear plan to remediate with timeframes is agreed to. AND FOLLOW-UP! Remember: When you avoid tough feedback and performance conversations out of compassion for someone’s personal circumstances, you are doing a dis-service to the other people in your team and the organisation, who are picking up the tab and the slack. This potentially creates more problems: burnout, attrition, resentment etc.
Whilst not easy, engaging in constructive, future focused, feedback conversations are essential and the core of your role as a manager. Pretending that everything is OK is not going to change the reality. Your role is challenging, it requires you to do the adulting.
In the Manager to Leader path, we spend a good amount of time helping managers learn how to create work-conditions that foster wellbeing, and don’t unnecessarily add stress to already stressed-by-life employees. You don’t want to be the ones creating the problem. Your organisation does not have as its mission statement: make lives unbearably stressful for our employees. If you are not proactively getting ahead of the workplace culture in your team, you might well be adding to the problem. And life is tough enough already!
Find out more about Leading a Culture of Wellbeing here.