The World Health Organisation (WHO) states: “Mental health is critically important for everyone, everywhere, and goes beyond the mere absence of a mental health condition. It is integral to well-being, enabling people to realise their full potential, show resilience amidst adversity, be productive across the various settings of daily life, form meaningful relationships and contribute to their communities. Physical, psychological, social, cultural, spiritual, and other interrelated factors contribute to mental health, and there are inseparable links between mental and physical health. Promoting and protecting mental health is also critical to a well-functioning society. It fosters social capital and solidarity, which are essential during times of crisis.”

The WHO estimates that one billion people in the world struggle with mental health issues, with depression being one of the leading causes of disability. With the amount of time that people spend at work daily, companies (particularly bosses) play huge roles in contributing to mental health and wellness or being the cause of the development of mental and emotional pain. An indifferent CEO or an ineffectual human resources department “allow” bad managers to continue with malpractice to the detriment of everyone in the company.

Toxic bosses develop toxic cultures. While these toxic bosses may not be stealing your lunch money, they are pulling you down emotionally day in and day out. Passive-aggressive emails, aggressive body language, verbal attacks, and other toxic office politics that your boss might be inflicting on you are not things you deserve. Lachlan Brown, the founder and editor of Hack Spirit, notes: “The most dangerous thing that bullies and abusers do is convince you that you are alone; they isolate you, making you feel that everything they do is on you and you alone. So, seek out others on your side, and tell yourselves: this is not your fault.”

If companies (all in management), therefore, have so much influence on the wellbeing and mental health of employees, what should companies be doing to enhance efforts to protect and boost mental health amongst employees? Some potential strategic efforts include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Company values should govern behaviour – companies should not just have sets of values that they publish to customers but should live these values internally. The values should guide the behaviour of everyone in the business. No-one should be exempt from living the values. Leadership example is paramount to instilling the values into all decision-making and team practices.
  2. Performance management should include measurement on kindness and care – leaders should not only be assessed on results achieved but should also be measured on culture creation; like treating all employees with respect and dignity, advancing skills development and career growth, communicating effectively, and passing on sufficient information.
  3. Acting on strategic culture audits – having data that illustrates how employees are feeling is the first step, but actions need to be taken to address any deficiencies. Employees need to see that the CEO is willing to “enforce” necessary changes to improve the work environment and enhance the employee value proposition.
  4. Facilitate appropriate mental health initiatives – inaugurate a mental wellness programme or publish mental health information brochures. Provide access to professional resources if necessary.
  5. Partner with mental health institutions to provide volunteer opportunities for employees – giving people the opportunity to volunteer, even within work hours, sends a very clear message of commitment to valuing mental health and wellness issues overall.

Employee mental health is severely damaged by toxic work cultures. Toxic managers need to be held accountable and then helped to change their poor approach. There is no excuse for any form of abusive behaviour.

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