Toxic managers top the list of our top 3 workplace wellbeing challenges. No matter how collaborative, supportive, or inclusive a company’s culture is, a single insensitive team leader can undermine it all. A manager’s behaviour is very critical for workplace wellbeing. Toxic managers can drive employees to burnout with unreasonable demands or expectations, give destructive rather than constructive feedbacks, and create toxic environments where employees feel threatened, bullied, and unsafe. The problem with toxic mangers is that they are often unaware of the impact of their behaviours. People Management, a publication by CIPD, UK, reports that real solution should start with initiating an honest conversation with the leader in question, as there may be an unknown underlying factor influencing the toxic behaviour.
Holding toxic managers to account is important as change can only occur when unwanted behaviours are flagged. Getting managers to participate in employee wellbeing training programs as well as Emotional Intelligence related courses is also critical. Such programs will help them build skills like empathy, active listening, and self- awareness. An assumption that managers or team leaders arrive at the top floor armed with people management skills is faulty.
One fallout of the current VUCA world of work characterised by uncertainty, increased competition, delayering, mass layoffs, redundancies and remote working is work overload. In a survey carried out by our organization during one of our corporate training sessions, about three quarter of the participants reported that in addition to their workload they were saddled with the responsibilities of
colleagues who had resigned from the organization. Remote working can erase the boundaries between work and home. Employees have reported working longer ten hours. Organizational policies on remote working need to be designed and communicated to employees. For instance, it should be clearly communicated to employees that responses to emails are only expected within working hours. Virtual meetings and learning programs should also be properly structured to avoid overspill.
The work/family interface
Our career and personal lives are inherently intertwined. A significant proportion of employee mental health challenges stem from their personal rather than professional lives and HR may be at a loss on how to offer proper support. It is critical to ensure that leaders are adept at recognizing when a subordinate is struggling. Rather than yelling at him or her for failing to meet up the required target, an empathetic way would be to say, “your numbers are down again, is everything okay?”. Again, it boils down to arming those who oversee people with the required people management skills.
Covid-19 charged us all. Wellbeing or mental health at work is no longer a luxury, it is a weighty matter. With emerging constructs such as ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘the great resignation’, known in my part of the world as ‘Japa Syndrome’, employees are demanding more from their employers. Organizations that continue to ignore the mental wellbeing of their workforce, do so at their own peril. The trends seem to suggest that in the post covid world of work, it is no longer ‘working to live, it is living to work’.