Employers sometimes have concerns about a specific employee and whether the employee’s poor health might be affecting their performance and ability to do their job. But employers should also look to their employees’ mental health and wellness, as this can have a bigger impact on job performance than physical health concerns.
Depression on the job is often misinterpreted as a bad attitude or poor work ethic. You won’t change it with a reprimand or a pep talk. You may, however, be able to put your worker at ease by showing your awareness of the problem. First, you must be able to recognize it.
If an employee has recently suffered the death or departure of a family member or close friend, the grieving process and accompanying sadness is natural. It will take time and perhaps counseling for the individual to recover previous working habits and disposition. On the other hand, if no such loss or other traumatic event can be linked to an employee’s apparent depression, the cause may be more complicated. It could be physiologically based (and a long-term condition), requiring medication or some other treatment plan.
Regardless of the cause, keep in mind that whatever problems you may be experiencing from someone’s depression, their frustration with it is far more extreme. And the only control they have over it is to seek professional help.
How Depression May Be Evident in Employees
Just as managers should be aware of any physical ailment that may hinder an employee’s work, so should they be aware of an employee’s mental health. Mental illness often goes unrecognized because it’s not so easy to spot and it’s considered a private matter for most people.
One in 20 Americans currently suffer from depression severe enough to require medical treatment. If you suspect that an employee may be suffering from depression, consult the following list of symptoms. If these characteristics persist for a number of weeks, a thorough diagnosis may be necessary:
Decreased productivity; missed deadlines; sloppy work
Morale problems or a change in disposition
Lack of cooperation
Safety problems or accidents
Absenteeism or tardiness
Complaints of being tired all the time
Complaints of unexplained aches and pains
Alcohol and drug abuse
What if My Employee is Depressed?
Here are some things that you can do to be proactive in getting an employee back on track:
1. Confront the situation quickly. A gentle, caring and direct confrontation needs to be made. A person who the employee knows, trusts, and respects is the ideal person to make the confrontation. The designated person needs to avoid sounding at all condescending or authoritarian; but genuine concern needs to be expressed and specific behaviors need to be directly pointed out.