Previously coming from a Management position within the Corporate world, I know first-hand what 'stress at work' is. I've lived and breathed it on a regular basis. Managed colleagues who had it, along with having it myself, I suffered in silence with my stress and anxiety as felt to afraid and ashamed to speak up. I believe I now know what it takes to not only stop it getting so out of hand, but to put the steps in place to stop it happening altogether.
Trust me when I say, in the main, when a colleague goes off with 'work related stress' or 'anxiety/stress' It's their last option. No one wants to feel this way, and undoubtedly, they've been feeling this way for a while before making that call to their Boss. But why does it need to get to that stage?
Let me tell you what I believe to be true.....
Colleagues may or may not have a good Line Manager, but in the main, the Manager does not have the time, experience, and quite often the patience to really spend QT with their people. I'm not talking about a monthly 1:1, or a quick 5-minute conversation here and there, to 'tick another box'. I'm talking about real QUALITY TIME, getting to know the colleague. Getting to really understand what their core values are, without the pressures of targets and KPI’s getting in the way. Whilst they have these pressures, they are most definitely not being fully present with the colleague and vice versa. The Manager ends up stressed, frustrated and quite often sees the colleague as being ‘needy’ and ‘obstructive’.
Just because the colleague may have a different opinion, or doesn’t have the same agenda or core values, and strengths as them or their peer group, they do matter. They have a life, they have feelings, and quite possibly strengths and skills that you don't even know exist.
Let's be honest here - If only 13% of colleagues are comfortable talking about Mental Health, why is that?
For me, it was about FEAR.
Fear of being looked down on.
Fear of never being taken seriously.
Fear of never getting opportunities again.
Fear of being overlooked for promotion.
Fear of being compared to others.
Fear of how others would perceive me.
Fear of my Managers reaction.
Fear of things getting worse for me than they already were.
Fear of speaking up and 'speaking MY truth'
The truth is, so many people won't speak up, as they know how it will be perceived - FACT!
In order for things to really change, I believe it should be someone independent and completely separate from any business KPI's going in to the Business. Spending time with colleagues over a few months, working with them to understand, and coach them around self care, and ultimately being the best version of themselves. This will build trust and allow them to 'speak their truth' and help them not only overcome their challenges, but to also live their best life, love what they do, and ultimately be the best version of themselves every day.
Should this not be the job of the Manager?
Well, how's that working out right now? You only need to read the stats to tell us that it's not. Let's get real, as much as many Managers want to help their colleagues get back to work, they are working to a completely different agenda. They have incredible pressure, targets and huge workloads, and unfortunately their absence figure just becomes another number/target to hit, and if they don’t they are impacted by losing bonuses, and receiving a poor end of year rating, which in turn makes them feel undervalued, compared to others, and ultimately ‘stressed at work’.
If they had the skills, time, and freedom to spend with colleagues could they stop this happening? I’m not so sure, but even if they could, in many cases they either don’t know how to, or perhaps don’t even want to.
Suddenly the colleague is just another number on their absence list, off with work related stress, with a 2 week line, which turns in to another 2 weeks, then suddenly 6 months have passed with a very ‘light touch’ from the Manager (who’s really ticking boxes) and following the shit HR system that’s in place. By that time, the colleague can barely leave their front door, let alone return to work.
Why the hell does it get so bad? If I had £10 for every time I heard a Manager complain about the systems in place to support them, I honestly think I could retire at 40.
Managers ticking boxes and following the process V’s colleagues who feel completely undervalued, with no support and no voice. Unfortunately, both the Manager and the colleague have quite a bit in common here. They both don’t feel they get enough support.
Companies say they’re trying their best, but they’re getting it wrong, the stats alone tell us that. If we really want to change what the stats are telling us, then we need to change what we are doing. We are making it so much more difficult than we need to.
So, what’s the answer? For me, it’s a qualified Mindset Coach to spend time with ALL colleagues. To focus on nothing other than the following –
· Their Core Values
· Their Mindset
· Their Self Care
· Their Self Beliefs/ Limiting Beliefs
I believe this would help employers and employees to realise that there is another way, if they open their minds. I believe that either someone independent going in to the business, or employers investing in training the right person within their business to become a Mindset & Life Coach, will not only dramatically improve absence but also improve the amount of people in the work suffering with ‘Work Related Stress’ and ‘anxiety’ before it gets to the point of having to take medication from the Dr.
I believe that having someone to work more holistically with all colleagues will create a working environment, that people really love to work in, not just ‘tick a box’ on their annual ‘colleague engagement scores’ to save themselves anymore ‘grief’ and ‘backlash’.
Or they could do nothing.....
Continue as they are, put a plaster over it, by creating a ‘new and improved ways of working’. Doing things like restructures and creating things like the ‘People Manager’, which just turns out to be the same Manager as before, minus some of the other tasks, that then get divided out between other people, so more pressure and work on them. A restructure so you tell yourself you’re taking the right action, when the fact is, it probably won’t work. I've seen it time and time again.
At best, it might help a bit, but if you really want change, you need the right people who are trained and independent from any kind of KPI type targets, with no conflict of interest. This person, who can really work with the staff not only to get them back to work, but also STOP them going off sick in the first place.
I don’t believe everyone struggling at work needs a Mental Health Professional, but I do believe that everyone would benefit from a Mindset Coach.
Investing in myself and then in my own Life Coach, aside from having my 2 amazing children, is the best thing I've ever done. It has added so much value to my life, I would recommend, doing the same to everyone. For me, it's the best investment you'll ever make.