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As a Leader, You Need to Focus on Employee Well-Being

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

As a young manager in my first corporate role, I really had no idea the impact I could have on other people's lives.

As we all know, previous experience in management can be positive or negative. I clearly had no idea the types of information I would be told. I didn’t know much about the sensitivities, the challenges, and the inside view of the lives of my team members. Sadly, I had very limited experience in the corporate world at the time, along with my actual maturity, age, and then eventually added in proper management training. I lead the way I thought I should.

I look back now and wish I had additional support, resources, and ongoing coaching or training for the things that simply aren't in a textbook. Remembering back to those early years, I oversaw about 83 employees in total with middle managers as the direct lead. The challenges that I learnt of, and unfortunately saw unfold, were difficult to understand and know how to deal with.

In those years, we didn’t talk too much about the impact of mental health. Did I ever think that the stress of finances, workplace bullying, or fear of job loss could lead to suicide? ABSOLUTELY NOT. My eyes were forced open to these issues the day that it happened. We tragically lost a colleague to mental health issues and, to this day, I wonder what, if anything, could I have done differently to support. The “what if’s” can destroy you, but only if you let them.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. This day is recognized to bring awareness to suicide, increase action towards reducing suicide rates, and lower the stigmas surrounding suicide, suicidal idealization, and thoughts of self-harm. In Canada, an average of 10 people die by suicide each day. As leaders, we need to pay attention to the trends and how they affect our team members. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “Increased stress, anxiety and depression are all side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some people, this translates to feelings of hopelessness, despair, or even suicidal thoughts.”

The Centre for Suicide Prevention lists the following as identifiable warning signs to look for in employees:

• Being very happy after a period of depression

• Acting more aggressive or stressed out than usual (e.g. lashing out at people)