Managers Have Major Impact On Mental Health: How To Lead For Wellbeing
New data suggests that for almost 70% of people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or their doctor—and it’s equal to the impact of their partner. If you’re a leader, you’re right to find this data sobering.
The stakes for leadership have always been high, but knowing you’re affecting people that much, is cause for leaders to take stock and ensure they’re doing all they can to be their best and have their most positive impacts on people.
Mental Health Matters
According to 69% of people, their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health, on par with the impact of their partner. And this was more than the impact of their doctor (51%) or therapist (41%). This is according to a new study by The Workforce Institute at UKG which included 3,400 people across 10 countries.
A large number of people are affected by stress. In fact, according to the study, 43% of employees report they are exhausted, and 78% say stress negatively impacts their work performance. Other aspects of life are also affected as 71% say stress at work negatively impinges on their home life, 64% say it detracts from their wellbeing and 62% say it degrades their relationships.
In addition to the human reasons to pay attention to mental health, business also benefits. When people have positive mental health, 63% say they are committed to their work and 80% say they’re energized.
The Leadership Role
Leaders have a critical role to play in contributing to the conditions for positive mental health—their own and others’. Here are the most impactful approaches.
Many leaders try to shield team members from stress or challenge by taking on the toughest work—or the extra work—themselves. In addition, they can put in long hours and intrude on their own boundaries in the process. In fact, 35% of leaders in the Workforce Institute study reported they are stressed at work and 42% felt it was because of the stress they put on themselves.
As a leader, say no to too much work for yourself or your team, and resist the urge to take on the work yourself. People watch how you manage your own workload and they use your choices as a model—whether you mean them to or not. So avoid overloading yourself. Train others, delegate, empower and ensure teamwork and coordination with other groups so everything doesn’t fall on your shoulders.
Recognize Your Impact
The research also found a third of people say their manager fails to recognize their own impact on others’ wellbeing. Be aware of the leadership laser. People are influenced by everyone around them, but leaders have an outsize impact—and people tend to put leader behaviour under a microscope, paying especially close attention to what leaders say and do.
Emphasize empathy because it’s the right thing to do, and because it has positive impacts on innovation, engagement and retention. Ask people how they’re doing, tune in when you see they may be out of sorts or when they may need support because they’re working on an especially challenging problem.
In addition, connect people to resources—whether it’s an employee assistance program, the HR team or programs to support them. According to the Workforce Institute study, 70% of people would like their manager to do more to support mental health—and these are ways you can do just that.
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