An open letter to all HR professional out there…from Rebecca Allen, HR Professional and Mental Health specialist.
Dear HR Buddy
I used to be you.
I used to be a hard-working HR professional, striving to give the very best support to those on my payroll.
I worked so hard for those letters after my name, those certificates on the wall, and fondly remember my CIPD classes, learning about a whole new HR career that lay ahead of me.
That was until, 20 years in to my HR career, when my Mental Health took a turn for the worse.
You can read about my breakdown HERE and see how I became a Mental Health trainer so that I could prevent the same thing happening to someone else.
You’ll also learn that if those around me had just taken a minute or so out of their day to check in with me, I wouldn’t have suffered in silence for so long.
You see, I know how tough it is.
You’re either the only HR person in your organisation, or you’re surrounded by a team that specialise in different areas of HR. Either way, it’s hard work guiding that cut-throat entrepreneurial Managing Director of yours, and steering that politically incorrect Production Manager away from a Tribunal waiting to happen.
I know, I’ve been there, I get it.
It’s also hard work keeping on top of your CPD, reading up on the latest case law, and either creating, or getting Managers to stick to, those policies and procedures in that glossy new Employee Handbook that you’ve slaved over!
You’re possibly having to report to the Board on KPI’s like attrition, accidents at work and the cost of absence, and don’t get me started on those Bradford Factor scores!
What I want you to know, from someone who has been there, done that, had the mental breakdown and bought the proverbial t-shirt, is that NONE OF THIS MATTERS.
What matters is that Pawel in marketing has looked frazzled every time you’ve walked past him this week. He just doesn’t seem himself.
What matters is that Dawn in accounts has become more and more introverted and has stopped contributing in team meetings. She just doesn’t seem herself.
What matters is that Graham in the canteen has snapped at you a few times in the last fortnight. He just doesn’t seem himself.
You see, in a world of return to work meetings, self-certification forms and absence hotlines, we’ve stopped noticing our people, and the impact on the rest of the team and the business, is significant.
Sometimes, we are so busy focusing on the legal and compliance aspects of our HR role that we make it easy for our people to put on their ‘sick voice’ and leave a voicemail for their manager telling them that they’ve got a one-day flu, or food poisoning for the fourth Monday this year.
We make it easy for them to fill in a form that gets filed away in a dusty cabinet to perhaps be used against them later in capability proceedings.
We make it easy for compromised mental health, that negatively affects our people and in effect our business, to go unnoticed.
When our people are under pressure and their Mental Health starts to suffer, they display symptoms that can manifest cognitively, emotionally, physically and behaviourally and often, they are the last ones to notice.
So, how about this?
Forget about the Bradford Factor for this week. Ignore the return to work forms just for now. Put the Employee Handbook and the policies down and instead have a conversation.
Take Pawel in Marketing to one side, make an excuse to get Dawn from Accounts to pop in to your office about something and next time you pop to the Canteen you ask Graham if he’s got time to have a cuppa.
Take the time to sit down and say, “hey, I’m a bit concerned about you, you just don’t seem yourself” and see where that takes you.
Because to truly support your people to be and contribute their best, so that the business succeeds, you’ve first got to spot when they don’t seem themselves and then you’ve got to make it easy for them to tell you why.
If you would like to know more about the behavioural, cognitive, emotional and physical symptoms so that you can spot the warning signs email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a preview of some of our training slides. Please also email us or call us on 0117 905 9860 or 01733 459 986 if you’d like more information on our Mental Health Awareness training.
Wishing you every success in your HR career,
About the Author
Rebecca Allen has been an HR professional for almost 25 years, during which time she suffered from a Mental Breakdown due to work-related stress. She took a career break to regain her strength during which time she received a diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Rather than staying down, she got firmly back on her feet, stubbornly and determinedly studying Mental Health and Psychotherapy from her sick bed. She now has a clean bill of health, is a parent of twins and runs a successful Psychotherapy clinic in Easy Anglia. She is also one of our Mental Health Awareness & Management Trainers so would be happy to discuss your training needs in more detail should this letter highlight any gaps in your Managers’ confidence and abilities to deal with Mental Health in the workplace.