I’m mad as hell (and no I’m not the alter-ego of Shaun Micallef.)

What gets me really mad is when I hear the same old story of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, loss of sleep, loss of self worth and loss of confidence emanating from the same source over and over again.

Malcolm Turnbull recently said how it is un-Australian to disrespect women in the context of domestic violence. I couldn’t agree more Malcolm.

Let’s take this further; it is un-Australian to disrespect other human beings, young, old, male or female. It is inhumane.

I’m angry because we are living at a time when levels of anxiety and depression are continuing to escalate through the roof when we have the capacity to start effectively reducing this using our new brain science.

I’m angry because the one place where we spend around 40% of our lives is often the one place where we do not feel safe and is associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety, PTSD and depression.

It’s the place we call work.

Depression is now the leading cause of disability in the workplace globally.

One in five Australians will suffer some form of mental illness in any given 12 months. The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance has estimated that Australian business loses $10.9 billion through mental illness each year. It’s costing us our health, our economy and time, with a serious claim for a mental disorder involving an average of 14.2 weeks off work.

What is disappointing is that the modern workplace maladies of disengagement, presenteeism and change fatigue, for which there is a never ending rainfall of articles and programs supposedly designed to address these problems, fails to tackle the real issue; the lack of humanity in the workplace.

This week I bumped into a friend who I discovered had recently left her job for “health” reasons because of the mental stress she had endured over the previous few months; daily verbal abuse, eye-rolling, being ignored, even spat at by a former colleague who for whatever reason decided they didn’t like her and wanted her gone.

What might start as a petty jealousy, a misunderstanding, or mistake can if inadequately dealt with as happened here; rapidly snowball into a hideous nightmare.

But what saddened and disappointed this friend the most, was the fact that she felt totally unsupported by the one person she thought knew her, understood her and would stand by her – her boss.

Organisational health includes mental safety at work.

There is little point in putting together workplace policies and procedures that denounce bullying if no one does anything to effectively deal with it. That is disrespectful of the right for every employee in every workplace to feel safe and protected from mental violence.

Creating a place of safety at work starts with direction and leadership by example to create of a workplace culture that actually cares about its people.

Freddy Krueger and David Brent aside, brain savvy leaders understand that the health and success of a business depends on the health and wellbeing of their staff.

If you recognise someone isn’t performing to the level you know they’re capable of or seems less than their usual happy self, it’s not enough to just ask R.U.O.K (good place to start by the way). It’s about checking in and having a meaningful conversation to discover what else might be contributing to their situation.

If you don’t ask, how can you as a leader or manager really know what’s going on?

Emotion contagion can be terminal.

Our emotions are infectious. How we choose to show up influences others around us. Again as a leader or manager what makes the difference between getting a project completed on time and done well depends less on the work, the project and the time-line and more about the level of commitment, motivation and willpower that is all driven by how we feel.

Our cognition depends on our emotional state to perform to our best.

Boosting mental strength and resilience starts here.

1. Be brain aware

By understanding how our brain operates and the impact that emotion has on cognition and decision-making, we can learn to regulate our emotions to help us ride out those more challenging times in our lives.

 

2. Connect.

When we connect with others, we start to recognise how we all share similar concerns and worries. Understanding we are not alone helps us cope better with the daily challenges and tribulations we face and keep things in perspective.

 

3. Develop compassion.

Compassion and empathy allow us to understand what might be going on for someone else. It makes us kinder, more tolerant and resistant to the black tentacles of envy, distrust and fear. Practising compassion might sound a little weird but has been shown to boost happiness and wellbeing in ourselves and in those with whom we share our lives.

 

We can restore our mental health through re-humanising the workplace.

It is something every business needs to consider because no workplace is immune, no occupation spared and the cost is surely too great.

·       How does your workplace deal with bullying?

·       Does your workplace culture live by its non-bullying policies?

·       Is bullying leading to mental health problems in your workplace?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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