HR Pros – How Companies Harm Employee Mental Health

The following materials are excerpted from a PowerPoint presentation by Suzanne Benoit, LCSW, SPHR at the Maine Human Resource Convention, May 11, 2023 #MEHRC2023

It is not enough to support employee mental health needs, employers have to stop harming employee emotional health.

“There’s been a power shift from you to your employees – low unemployment, long covid, immigration restricttions and many other options for work  like the gig economy, social media, remote work and just deciding to have one family member stop working, has reduced your supply for precious resources. Unionization and higher expectations of young workers put the pressure on you. Good luck if you’re not listening.”


As the power shifts from employers to prospective employees who have many other ways to earn income and many other options to consider, employers who fail to address wellbeing AND to curtail harmful company behaviors and conditions, will find themselves wanting for sustained quality staffing.


How influential are manager relationships and behavior to employee wellbeing?


A 2022 study demonstrates that managers’ impact on employee mental health is on par with their spouse.

Listen to Sam Eaton from Instagram @recklesslyalive, talented motivational speaker and advocate for mental health awareness. In this post, Sam quotes a Forbes article written by Orianna Rosa. You can find the Forbes article here but you may not be able to read it without a subscription. Sam quotes the article in his blog and covers Rosa’s key conclusions.

Sam’s message is essential for HR Pros who want to convince company leadership to invest in manager training. The Instagram video where Sam takes employers to task for ignoring the negative effects of poor manager behavior is dramatic and revealing. His story and compelling delivery makes it a must-listen video for you.


Here’s How Employers Harm Employee Mental and Emotional Health


Unproductive and damaging Leadership postures

  • Leadership does not understand/value people needs or their mental health
  • HR is understaffed, unseasoned or has insufficient power
  • Decision making is unprincipled – Say one thing do another, pretending things are great
  • Assuming EEs are okay with or not being paid for working evenings, weekends or during time off
  • Failing to anticipate negative effect of changes on employee needs
  • Setting unrealistic goals, production output or subtly increasing workloads
  • Failing to understand the long-term negative effect of unfilled vacancies on remaining staff
  • Failing to hold managers accountable for regular, ongoing and genuine manager-employee communication
  • Failing to prevent bullying, sexual harassment other forms of overt disrespect


Managers’ overt, disrespectful behavior puts the company at risk

  • Micromanagement or ignoring employee needs
  • Focus primarily on production and achieving metrics
  • Hold unrealistic production expectations
  • Failing to listen to or overreacting to, employee feedback
  • Marginalizes or “writes off” poor performers instead of coaching them up
  • Takes credit for staff work or blames others for their mistakes
  • Does not connect with employees about their personal concerns
  • Has both favored and unfavored team members
  • Company – Skills for making genuine connections with employees is uneven across all managers


Managers’ subtle unproductive behavior putting the company at risk

More subtle manager behavior might escape your notice, but these damage their relationships with employees over time and put the company at risk for employee turnover.

When managers hold private one-on-one supervision meetings “as needed” instead of keeping and preserving a regular meeting on the calendar.

  •  Do this instead – Set a predictable private time that allows the employee to plan in advance and consider issues they want to address or disclose to their manager.

When managers assume that employees are tough and resilient so they can navigate these changes on their own.

  • Do this instead – Provide special, targeted support when employees experience a work transition such as, being new to the company, starting a new position within the company or returning to work after work-from-home. Employees are especially vulnerable to upset and misunderstandings during these times.

For more examples of subtle behavior or manager training curriculum, contact me. Teaching managers pro-social skills is probably the easiest and most effective strategy to improve the relationship between employers and employees — ENGAGEMENT!

(c) copyright Benoit Consulting, LLC 2023 all rights reserved

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