Managers’ Impact on Mental Health

By Alana Smart / March 1, 2023 / Blog ,

Managers’ Impact on Mental Health

Are your employees stressed out? A recent report reveals just how greatly managers impact the mental health of workers.

The Workforce Institute at UKG surveyed 2,200 workers and managers from the United States and nine additional countries about their employment, work-related stress, mental health and other topics. Additionally, 600 C-suite leaders and 600 human resource executives/directors across the U.S were given the same survey, customized to their roles.

The survey responses pointed to an obvious trend of employees feeling stressed, and unable to speak up. With the influence of managers greatly weighing on employees’ shoulders, it is important that leadership acknowledge their role and prioritize workplace mental health.

“The chronic anxiety that comes from working through one global crisis after another is wearing on employees. Being overwhelmed consumes human energy and impacts retention, performance, innovation, and culture. Employers can be the anchor of stability for their people by giving them the support and resources they need — not just what we think they need.”

- Dr. Jarik Conrad, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Executive Director of The Workforce Institute at UKG 

What can managers do?

Recognize Your Impact

Although 3 out of 5 of the workers stated that their job has the biggest influence on their mental health, 69% said that their manager plays the largest role. A level of importance tied with their spouse. Managers’ impact on mental health was cited more often than a doctor (51%) or therapist (41%). Leaders and managers should emphasize empathy, discuss their own stressors, and create an open door policy for employees to approach them. Even when heavy workload was causing stress, 38% of employees said they’ve “rarely” or “never” talked with their manager about it. Stating rationale like “my manager wouldn’t care” (16%) or “my manager is too busy” (13%), or that they feel that they “should be able to figure it out” on their own (20%).

Lead By Example

Managers are experiencing the same stressors as the rest of their teams. Nearly 60% of managers said that they wished someone had warned them not to take their current role. When commenting specifically about stress, 46% suggested that they’d quit within the next year because of too much stress related to their roles. Managers should model good behavior for their teams and lead the conversation about mental health. By being open about stress, managers send the message that it is a safe space for employees to talk about their problems without stigma. Modeling empathy, stress management, mindfulness, and impulse control the results can be felt throughout the team.

Additionally, it’s important for managers to resist falling into bad behaviors. Managers must become comfortable saying no to extra hours and giant workloads. Employees notice how their managers manage their time and responsibilities and model this behavior as well. It is important to delegate work and coordinate teamwork, so that team members know that this is also acceptable for them.

Prioritize Health

At the end of the day. 43% of workers say that they are often or always exhausted when they finish work. That kind of stress can affect every aspect of day-to-day life. Of those surveyed, 71% said that work stress negatively impacts their home life, 64% said it impacted their wellbeing, and 62% said it impacted their relationships. Employees who feel unable to balance priorities at work and home are also far more likely to report “poor” or “very poor” mental health, per the report. Managers and leaders should be offering and promoting programs to support employees. Whether it is employee assistance programs, wellness perks, or medical screening programs, connecting employees to these outside benefits may help to bring more balance to their lives.

Workers want authentic, empathetic managers to lead them and when they feel supported. Then, they are more likely to look forward to work and to be more productive. Leaders can no longer avoid the topic of mental health in the workplace. Some of the best workers are willing to make trade-offs to have greater piece of mind. In order to retain them, mental health needs to be front and center at work.

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