How to start a conversation about stress with an employee

If an employee seems down or on edge, deadlines aren’t quite being met, or there are a few more sick days than you’d expect, then this could be a sign of a stress related mental health problem. But sometimes, even if you recognise that there’s a problem, it can be difficult to start a conversation. Check out our acronym, ALTRUIST below for some top tips on starting a conversation.

If an employee seems down or on edge, deadlines aren’t quite being met, or there are a few more sick days than you’d expect, then this could be a sign of a stress related mental health problem. But sometimes, even if you recognise that there’s a problem, it can be difficult to start a conversation. If the problem is skated over for too long, it can become quite severe and even harder to solve. Check out our acronym, ALTRUIST below for some top tips on starting a conversation.

Ask them – Sometimes, a simple ‘How are you feeling?’ can be enough to encourage someone to open up. If the employee feels relaxed and secure, they could be quite willing to share their thoughts with you. It’s best to chat to them discreetly, rather than when surrounded by co-workers.

Listen to them – It can be really difficult to open up if we are feeling stressed or anxious. Make it as easy as possible for the employee to talk. Listen to them and wait a few seconds before you say anything yourself. The employee is probably hesitating because something is on their mind.

Trust them – It might take time for the employee to open up about the trouble they are having. If you can, build a relationship of trust with the employee, or encourage them to interact with colleagues. It might take several weeks before they express how they are feeling.

Roots – There could be a clear cause for the stress and anxiety your employee is experiencing, but sometimes they might not know it themselves. If you and your employee can work together to find the root of the problem (the key word here being together), you can work together to solve it.

Understand them – No matter how often you have encountered anxiety problems, no matter how much you know about stress in the workplace, it’s important to remember that every person’s experience of mental health is unique. Try to address the issue with an open mind and an open heart. Avoid making assumptions, and don’t say ‘I know how you feel’, because no one really knows how anyone feels!

Involve yourself – If you suspect an employee is having problems, there are lots of sources there to help you find a solution. Educate yourself about identifying stress related problems and supporting others in the workplace. For example, you can learn a lot of useful information from our training sessions!

Show you care- Sometimes a sad or anxious person is especially sensitive to non-verbal cues. When talking to an employee who you suspect might be having trouble coping, check that your body language shows you want them to talk. Instead of crossing your arms, you could put them on the desk, which signifies an open and engaged mind. Leaning slightly toward the person signifies interest in what they are saying.

Try to help - Pretending there is not a problem will only harm your employee, and might impact on company productivity. It might be that the problem lies in their personal life, but that shouldn’t discourage you. Try to find a solution which suits the employee (work together with them, not against them) before the issue gets serious, and both of your lives will be easier for it!

Go on, be an ALTRUIST!

Want to find out more? Download our complimentary well-being checklist here and see how well your company is performing.

www.altruistuk.com | info@altruistuk.com | 0121 270 2000 | @AltruistUK

Katie attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where she set up Altruist in 2013. Since then, Katie has won various awards including Birmingham Mail's Young Achiever of the Year 2017, New Entrepreneurs Foundation 'Future Face of Business' and Entrepreneurial Spark's 'Most Accelerated Business'. She has also been a finalist in nine other award categories and in 2014, Katie was invited to attend the prestigious 'Women of the Year Lunch' in honour of her work raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

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