In his article in the New York Times, Zack Mcdermott shares the story of his challenging return to work after a psychological leave of absence. This experience happens to more people than we like to think. My book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, is a story of hope for so many people who suffer symptoms of mental illness with virtually no support in the workplace.
Given that one in five people have a mental health condition in any given year, everyone has someone close to them who is affected. Empathy, support and appropriate interventions are the prerequisite keys to being able to overcome most conditions. Workplace culture is also critically important, where the signs of a problem are usually always evident. Rather than just be a bystander to this, we must take action because early interventions can and do save lives.
To understand the magnitude of this reality, consider the 2016 Harvard/Stanford University study, which found that 120,000 deaths annually could be attributed to workplace stress. Given the fact that these are premature deaths, workplace stress is the number one killer.
Saving lives, for example, means sending people to the hospital when a heart attack is occurring or symptoms are present. In one company, I heard from an employee who was actually contacted while in the hospital being checked for a possible heart attack by HR to reschedule for the next day for the time lost while in the hospital. This went against the company’s own policy, but nonetheless was the action they chose. If this insulting behaviour were not bad enough, they followed up by penalizing the person with graveyard shifts for the next month despite the employee being their top producer. My hopes for the future for this company and companies like it are dim. They will likely lose their best employees and suffer above-average turnover.
If your situation resonates with either of these stories, it’s time for you to take action, which may mean standing up for what is right or possibly changing employment. The ethic of reciprocity suggests that we do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. Enacting this principle into the workplace works wonders!