There is much community awareness about mental health. It seems to be rising more and more in the workplace. It is a very complex issue and must be addressed in a very careful, empathetic and sensitive manner.

Firstly, unfortunately, these issues do not come up in an interview and is also difficult to detect, as the applicant is usually putting their best behaviour on. Once noticed or if the staff member does share with you, then one needs to firstly find out if they are seeing a psychologist or any other form of self-help, as mental health issues can stem from a varied number of sources and mostly it comes from outside of work.

Secondly, then address how this plays out in their job and the day to day activities. How does this impact on their motivation, passion and ownership to perform to the best of their abilities? This usually shoes up as lacking confidence anxiety, and in severe cases, depression. This then affects team morale and even carrying out simple tasks that is required in their job.

One has to be very careful in showing empathy and also ensuring due diligence in supporting the staff member to cope and deal with their issue whatever it might be that comes under the umbrella of mental health. This is a fine line as the Salon Owner needs to be very careful that they don`t give the message of discrimination due to lack of performance based on the mental health state. They need to address these two issues separately showing fairness and transparency.

Currently over the last 12 months, 1 in 16 Australians are experiencing depression and 1 in 7 have anxiety problems. Unfortunately, the covid19 global pandemic could be adding to this problem, however it is still an issue despite the pandemic. (Statistics-Beyond Blue)

If you are not properly skilled in these areas then contracting a reputable Business Coach, Self- Development Coach , NLP coach or even Life Coach that specialize in addressing behaviour, anxiety and obstacles towards performing to the requirements of their job could be a path to take. Obviously, this is only, if you feel that the staff member has got a lot to offer the business. In this case you contract the Coach to look at your entire business to make it cost effective.

While we know that there can be genuine cases where people are suffering with depression or anxiety, business owners should also know how to guard against “fake” cases when people are just jumping on this bandwagon and use it to their advantage.

In my years of experience dealing with salons, clinics and other businesses, this is quite a minefield out there and all Owners of businesses need to be very careful in how they handle the ones that allegedly use the“ anxiety” or “ depression “ trump card to get out of tasks and to be the brunt of the “victim” mentality. This can also override into bullying or harassment in the workplace that causes anxiety and even depression. On top of that, if they are good actors, they could even fool the General Practitioners out there into prescribing depression pills and ease of their workload at their place of employment.

Steps business owners can put in place:

  1. Make sure you have a strategic and sound Recruitment & Selection system. I am so anal about this anyway when it comes to recruiting staff. I was a HR Director for some time in my corporate life and spent a lot of time in this area. It is a science and I have since developed a system based on specific behavioural traits required in your staff, a numbering system that takes the emotion out of recruitment and a very effective questioning technique to bring out the traits you seek in your future employee.
  2. When in the job, set the KPI requirements from day 1 and assess performance in the first 3 months. If anxiety and depression come into play in that time, do not waste time but end their employment only based on their lack of performance in meeting their KPIs and nothing to do with their mental health condition.
  3. If you have a long-standing employee that suddenly develops anxiety or so-called depression, then you also need to address it in the same way, but also showing concern for them simultaneously.

It is our responsibility as a Business owner to ensure that the workplace is safe and that there are systems in place to prevent or address anxiety, depression or genuine mental health issues.

  1. It starts from the top. Owners and Management as I say must always practice these four rules in managing staff for performance- FIRM, FAIR, TRANSPARENT, CLEAR.
    FIRM: Not changing who you are but really drawing a line in the sand, showing this is the expectation, benchmark required.
    FAIR: Everyone is treated the same despite any illness, anxiety etc.
    TRANSPARENT: You have nothing to hide. What you see is what happens in the business.
    CLEAR: Being crystal clear in direction, empowerment, understanding KPIs and in appraisals. This is paramount to the business and performance.
  2. That your Policy & Procedure Manual addresses bullying, harassment and good culture where employees have freedom of speech, will be supported at all times , clear guidelines that addresses accepted behaviour and what is not accepted, understand that they need to take ownership and want to come to work every day.
  3. That the workplace meets all the safety requirements in the OH&S manual.

Furthermore, if not addressed correctly mental health issues does affect staff performance which does affect business growth and productivity. This can be detrimental for the business.

  1. Staff morale is the first one affected. The team starts to divide, and productivity is greatly affected.
  2. Owner and management become agitated, nervous and not sure which way to proceed.
  3. The employee that is in this state of anxiety or depression can use the “victim” card very effectively to their advantage if they are faking it. If they are genuine their mental health is at great risk of worsening.

If we follow the following four steps for addressing concern, employing due diligence and being clear about productivity that makes a business viable we can handle employees in this state without landing up in tribunal.

  1. Resupply: Are we providing the right resources and adequate support.
  2. Retrain: Do we need to retrain and keep their skills up either through in-house or external.
  3. Refit: If they are genuine and trying hard but still struggling, consider refitting or tailoring their job if you have the capacity. I call this the “Round peg round hole theory”.
  4. Release: If there is still a lack of ability and so no productivity, or improvement in their anxiety or depression issues, then “Let them Go” on the grounds of performance and no productivity. This should be done with genuine concern and that you cannot afford to keep them.