Four Factors to Consider in Managing Employees with Mental Health Issues

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Mental health issues present a unique and complex challenge to anyone involved in workplace management. Even though nearly 1 in 5 adults in the US experienced some form of mental illness in 2018, many people are still reluctant to open up about any struggles they may be dealing with in terms of mental health. And that’s when they are in the company of close friends and family members; in a competitive, productivity-focused workplace environment, there are even more factors which could discourage an employee from disclosing their mental health problems.

Mental illness can affect anyone at some point; the statistics here in Nebraska are more or less in line with the national average. As a manager, your main goal may be simply to ensure the high performance standards of your team. But if mental illness becomes a problem, you’ll need to adjust your approach towards that individual. A supportive workplace environment can make a difference and allow them to receive the eating disorder treatment they need from a local Omaha facility while continuing to perform at their job, for example. Here are some things to consider in your management.

Communication strategy

Ideally, your employee will take the lead in discussing their mental health issues, but if this is not the case, you need to initiate the dialogue. Be tactful and prepared – if you’re not familiar with the possible impact of mental illness on employees, talk to your company’s HR and allied healthcare professionals. This research will help you to hold a discussion with your employee which is open and free of judgment, allowing them to express their situation while you provide support and work together to find a solution.

Employee’s background

No matter how well you think you know your employee, it helps to do further background research as part of your preparation. They may be unwilling to disclose their mental illness due to previously experiencing discrimination or a lack of support from colleagues in their previous jobs, for example. Reviewing your employee’s background in the light of possible mental illness will help you avoid emotional triggers that can worsen the situation.

Workplace relations


Not all people who suffer from a mental health issue would necessarily be disruptive at work or cause conflict with their colleagues. However, even those who suffer in silence may end up having strained relationships with their fellow workers if their poor performance is increasing the workload and stress being handled by the rest of the team. Identify any co-workers who can provide added empathy or support during this period, and engage everybody to be a little more understanding and respectful of their colleague’s privacy while you try to resolve the situation.

Possible adjustments

In your position as manager, there are options you can offer to accommodate workers with mental illness, but you may also have to work within limitations. You can approve some time off work, a shift in specific duties and tasks, or a change of working arrangements to allow remote work, for example; but you have to be mindful of how this impacts the team and overall productivity. Know which reasonable adjustments are on the table as you discuss these issues with your employee.

If you take the right management approach, you can create a flexible and supportive work environment, which will play a small but important part in helping employees gain confidence and find the right assistance as they seek to get better.

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