Sometimes, I am asked by corporate clients to help new managers with the challenges of their new job. Usually, just the basic management tasks can be overwhelming without the added problem of dealing with people and especially ‘difficult’ people. There are many definitions of the word ‘difficult’ from the employee who constantly resists change to others who, for example, cannot integrate themselves in a team or cannot change the pace of their work to suit changing conditions.
There is no guarantee in any team that employees who are seen as ‘not difficult’ will not become ‘difficult’ at times and vice versa. Managers often put these difficult phases down to lack of ability, personality or the inability to change. However, many overlook a growing problem that threatens to engulf the workplace and if left unsolved will become the biggest single reason why absenteeism and poor performance will increase. Many employees suffering from ‘personal problems’, which is usually a sign for a manager that it is nothing to do with them, are in fact afflicted with the so-called ‘cancer of mental health’, depression. Listen to the link below for more about depression.
Statistics say that by 2020, depression will become the second most common ‘illness’ in the western world. Reasons cited for this are poor diet, more stress and a breakdown of traditional lifestyles. I often ask managers if they can really recognise the signs that one of their employees could be depressed and mostly they answer that as long as the work gets done, these problems should be dealt with ‘outside’. Additionally, many managers will not refer the problem to upper management for fear of being seen as having a lack of management ability.
In some countries, strong workers representative bodies prohibit too much ‘poking around’ in private issues and those employees who do seek help are shunned by a work culture that prizes people who work long hours. All this adds up to a scenario that depression, more often than not, goes unrecognised and people ’ suffer in silence’ and ‘muddle along’ as best they can.
I tell the managers that I work with that it is not only their job to recognise the basic symptoms of depression, that are incidentally generally easily detected, but it is their responsibility as an employer and a human as well. In our stressed out modern world, where bottom line and profit are everything, this does not always go down well but what kind of world do we live in when these are the only important factors and the human side of the workplace is pushed aside? Given that it is highly unlikely that the course the business world is on is going to change for the better, it is even more important that employers and managers take care of their biggest asset, the people who work for them.