Performance Management and Mental Health
Many employees can and do work while experiencing mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, with little impact on productivity. However, in the majority of cases, supportive performance management can be the key to continued productivity.
Consider the following when you next have to performance manage a team member:
When mental health is a factor, it is especially important to engage the employee in developing their own solutions and build on existing strengths.
Rule out rule.
When you have identified a performance concern, rule out the possibility that it may be related to a mental health issue before you consider disciplinary action. If you suspect a mental health issue, you can continue to support performance in a psychologically safe way. But if you think it is necessary to begin disciplinary action, you should first apply the rule out rule.
Communicate without judgment.
Be aware of your assumptions and judgments about an employee's behaviour. While assumptions or judgments are part of human behaviour, it is possible to communicate without allowing these to dictate or influence your response.
Consider emotional triggers.
It is important to understand and manage your own reaction to an employee's performance or behaviour at work.
Be supportive and clear.
When mental health issues, such as chronic mental stress, burnout, anxiety or depression are present, performance management needs to be especially supportive and clear.
- Supportive performance management focuses on the intended outcomes rather than the problem. This makes the conversation feel less like criticism and more like a collaboration focused on a solution.
- Example: Instead of saying "This report is full of errors," you might say, "We need this report to be error-free. What do you need to make that happen?"
- Be clear to avoid misinterpretation. Example: Instead of saying, "Do not be late for meetings," you might say, "I need you to be at meetings at least one minute before they start. How can I help you to do that?"
Relate issues to performance rather than personality.
Example: Instead of saying "You are being disrespectful to the team when you're late for meetings," you could say, "When you are not present at the beginning of the meeting we miss out on your contribution to the issues or we need to take more time to cover the issue again."
Highlight strengths first.
This could include emphasizing an employee's effort, value to the team, or previous accomplishments.
Separate acknowledging from agreeing. Rather than agreeing or disagreeing, try to demonstrate an understanding of the other person's perspective before you offer your own opinion.