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Dr Mark Cross, mental health expert. Dr Mark Cross, mental health expert.
12 April 2022 Posted by 

The great workplace disconnect: Mental health needs discussion

DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
THE rise in mental injuries in the workplaces has led to a major disconnect between employees and managers, hindering crucial conversations.
New research by Allianz reveals two in five or 43% of employees are uncomfortable initiating crucial conversations in the workplace, with nearly a quarter not satisfied with how often their manager checks in with them about their mental health. 
 
Workplace mental health or psychological injury claims have increased since pre-pandemic times, yet 90% of managers’ report they are satisfied by their workplaces’ ability to create a mentally healthy environment in the last 12 months.
 
As a result, to encourage employees and managers to have more open and honest conversations, Allianz has created the Crucial Conversations Toolkits. The toolkits provide both employees and managers with tips to navigate crucial – and sometimes uncomfortable – conversations about challenges in the workplace. 
 
It shows that despite a new year and revitalised hopes for stability, Australian workers are experiencing further disruption as the pandemic continues to put pressure on the workplace.
 
A crucial conversation is a discussion with high stakes, differing opinions and strong emotions and if handled poorly or ignored, the outcome can lead to strained relationships or broader mental health issues in the workplace. 
 
The new research comes as Allianz data reveals workplace mental health injuries are continuing to rise, with active psychological injury claims increasing 12% since the pandemic began. In response, Allianz is seeking to understand the current challenges facing both employees and senior managers in the workplace, and the barriers in the way of conducting crucial conversations. 
 
While the urgency for open dialogue around mental health in the workplace has never been clearer, more than a third of employees do not feel satisfied with their employer’s ability to create a mentally workplace and nearly a quarter are not satisfied with how often their manager checks in with them about their mental health. 
 
Check in with team members
 
In contrast, nearly a quarter of managers say they proactively check in with team members regularly to create opportunities to share their concerns about mental health, however, almost a third have an expectation that their teams need to make them aware. 
 
While two in five managers believe that facilitating crucial conversations and having an open discussion promotes a mentally healthy workplace, the research found that 65% of employees would not turn to their manager first to conduct these conversations, with 41% of those turning to their peers or someone outside their workplace before their manager. 
 
Dr Mark Cross, mental health expert and author of Changing Minds and Anxiety said the Allianz research revealed that both employees and managers want and expect to be having crucial conversations, but there was a growing disconnect between both groups.
 
“Employees feel their manager should proactively bring up difficult topics or discuss their mental health with them, while managers feel their direct reports should be responsible for bringing their concerns forward.”
 
“This confusion is being felt across every industry and demographic. Organisations and individuals need to feel comfortable initiating and managing these conversations and this shift can only happen with a change in workplace culture, education and attitude.”
 
Australian employees rank the top three most uncomfortable topics to raise with their manager as requesting a pay rise at 68%, requesting a promotion 55% and raising issues around bullying and harassment at 43%.
 
Similarly, managers rank their direct reports requesting a pay rise 53%, discussing bullying and harassment 49% and requesting a promotion 47% are the top three most uncomfortable topics for them.
 
Additionally, in 2022 managers are expecting their team to raise concerns around flexible working arrangements at 55%, increased pressure and workload at 35% or extended leave at 30%.
 
Through its Personal Injury division, Allianz is a leading provider of Workers Compensation and offers a range of support and services for the evolving needs of Australian employers and employees. Visit the Allianz Workplace Mental Health Hub to learn more about crucial conversations and access the Crucial Conversations Toolkits for employees and managers. 
 
Tips for the crucial conversation:
 
For employees where possible:
Write a list of the topics you want to discuss and think about how you’re going to discuss them. This can help you feel more confident when entering the conversation. 
Know that it is ok to feel nervous, and consider speaking to a support person before, during or after your crucial conversation.
Clearly share your expectations for the meeting upfront, ensuring you’re working towards a positive outcome.
Approach the meeting with solutions in mind, while being open to negotiating to ensure the solution is suitable for all involved.
Follow up on the conversation in writing to ensure you and your manager are aligned on the discussion and agree on the solution that has been reached. 
 For employers where possible:
Before the meeting, look to understand what the discussion will be about so you can lean on internal resources or support teams where needed. 
Bring an empathetic and respectful approach to the discussion. While you may not personally agree with the approach to the topic, expressing empathy will help you digest their perspective and allow them to feel heard. 
Use verbal and body language techniques such as direct eye contact and relaxed voice and facial expressions to set a safe tone for the discussion. 
Follow up in writing with the next steps following the conversation. Where appropriate, discuss the matter with your HR team or your own direct manager to determine an appropriate solution. 
Suggest solutions to your organisation to further support your team, for example, modernising your workplace mental health policy. 


editor

Publisher
Michael Walls
michael@accessnews.com.au
0407 783 413