By: Anonymous Contributor
I’ve struggled with mental wellness for over 17 years, and each episode becomes more unbearable than the last. What I’ve noticed is that when I have a caring employer or leadership team, the bout of depression is easier to push through. When I have an employer who perpetuates it, the length and severity increase as well. Effective leadership understands that each employee in their company is a human being who spends most of their time at work, directly affecting their mental wellness.
One example I have of a time when a scenario at work caused a trauma response that, ultimately, led to anxiety and depression, was in 2018. I had just come back from taking time off for vacation when my employer asked for a quick zoom meeting first thing that Monday morning. I had no idea what the meeting was about. When I came into [the meeting], there was my boss, service manager, customer service representative, and team lead all waiting to talk with me. As you can imagine entering this meeting and seeing the screen created an intimidating environment.
My boss at the time asked the customer service representative to address all the mistakes she found that I made while I was out of the office. She was allowed to completely unload on me. My initial reaction was just waterworks. I felt completely blindsided with no offense ready. Once she was done, I was reprimanded in front of everyone. When I started freaking out about losing my job, my boss just said you’re not fired, just don’t make those mistakes again and ended the meeting.
When the meeting was ended I was left with anxiety and fear, feeling like a loser. Since I was working from home, I was sitting at home by myself stewing in the situation not just on Monday, but the entire week. I couldn’t sleep, eat, talk or function. I spiraled into a deep dark hole of depression and wasn’t sure how to start digging my way out again. This episode was my worst [depressive episode] to date and lasted nine long months, leaving me feeling hopeless!
I’m not going to place the entire blame on my employer because I’ve been struggling with depression for years. However, the way the situation was handled was the catalyst to this life-threatening episode. Leadership in companies need to understand that the way employees are talked to, conflicts or mistakes are handled, needs to be thought through to create the least amount of fear and anxiety possible. A knee-jerk reaction to an issue or team member complaining can cause a real mental health issue for the person it’s pointed towards.
If you’re in a leadership position leading with care, compassion, and example are the best ways to ensure you are not the catalyst for an employee going into a downward spiral. Most people spend more time at work than anywhere else, and this should be considered when talking with your staff. As leaders, you don’t always know what’s going on with your employees mentally. We all have struggles that others aren’t aware of, so thinking this through before talking with others is key to healthy work culture.