Dos and Dont's when Discussing Stress with a Colleague

Mental Health remains a taboo subject within the community and this extends into the workplace. Most employers/managers are still afraid to talk about mental health with employees due to fear of saying the wrong thing.

Creating a positive environment within workplaces where stress and mental health can be discussed openly, will not only improve an organisation's productivity but will also help reduce stigma and help employees get the support they need earlier.

With this in mind, here are some Do's and Don'ts when discussing stress with employees.

Do:
1) A few small words can be very supportive. Start with "how are you feeling?" Keep things simple; the last thing your employee wants is to be interrogated or put on the spot.

2) Consider your body language. Crossed arms suggest a person is defensive and lacks trust. It is not an interrogation, so try to be relaxed in order to make your employee feel at ease.

3) Be patient. Stress is extremely personal so it can be daunting for someone to talk about their feelings, especially in the workplace. Enable your employee to open up gradually. Build relationships and keep the line of communication open.

4) Discussing stress is exceptionally confidential, so talk somewhere private, away from distractions, other colleagues and the hustle and bustle of the workplace.

5) Embrace silence. Allow time for your employee to gather their thoughts. Simply enabling someone to just stop for a short time can be very beneficial and calming. You don't need words of wisdom to be supportive; listening can be just as valuable.

Don't
1) Use clichés like "pull yourself together" or "there are lots of people worse off than you". These are generic phrases which are insensitive, impersonal and can come across as patronising.

2) Ignore the signs. If you think an employee is stressed, tackle the issue. It won't just go away if you leave it.

3) Be afraid to ask the question "do you feel stressed?" It may sound simple, but it could be just the key to offering an employee the help and support they need.

4) Give advice and share your own opinions as these can muddy the water between yourself and your employee and could leave you in a position of blame. Keeping it professional can be difficult, nevertheless, it is important to establish boundaries when offering support.

5) Make assumptions, everyone handles stress differently. It is also essential to never pass judgement as this can worsen situations.

Altruist Enterprises is experienced in providing training to help organisations to start that important conversation, including Employee Mental Health Awareness Training and Online Employee Mental Health Awareness Training.

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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