What signals do you send out as a manager?

In todays’ podcast we share with you something which we invite managers, as part of our online management mental health training, to reflect on when it comes to their behaviour.

There are a number of the campaigns run around mental health in the workplace. For example, in the UK, we have ‘it’s time to talk’ and campaigns about ‘it’s okay not to be okay’.

These campaigns are designed to get people in the workplace talking.  Talking about wellbeing, talking about mental health, asking for help, stepping forward and speaking to managers and letting managers know if they’re not okay.

However, in order for any employee to be able to feel that they can say that they’re not okay, then something needs to happen within that individual first.

In fact, before any of us can speak out about anything, which is deeply personal, then we need to experience something internally. And this ‘something’ is what we invite managers to reflect on when it comes to their behaviour.

And that’s something is feeling safe.

Feeling safe is what we are primarily driven to experience 24/7.  We might operate in the 21st century, but our internal programming is still very primal.

Our survival response, the freeze fight and flight response, is designed to keep us safe. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re shopping for a new sofa or we’re in a cafe with a friend, the brain is scanning the environment constantly assessing ‘Am I safe? Or is there a threat to life?’

When we don’t feel safe, that’s when we are trigger the freeze fight and flight response. When the brain mobilizes us to take action to either fight that predator, to run away from it or to stay very still.

Although we don’t have any of the kind of threats to life that we used to have, like those saber tooth tigers, we still get triggered by this survival response.

In fact, science tells us that around about 70% of people are living in that stress/survival response. That we are triggering the freeze fight and flight response all day every day in response to pressures, in response to deadlines, targets, arguments without children, conflict at work.

Therefore in order for our employees to speak out, to say ‘I’m not okay’, that ‘I’m struggling’, to ask for help, that I am experiencing challenges with my mental health, then we need our employees to feel safe,

To know that they can trust us.

Therefore when it comes to our managers, and our managers behaviour one of the key things we invite managers to reflect on is ‘what is it that they are doing, or perhaps what are they not doing, that sends out the right signals. That lets their people know that they are safe.

What are they consistently doing that creates that sense of safety at that really unconscious level.

We invite managers on our management mental health training to reflect on what they are doing.

For example, if we think about speaking out about something that’s emotional and that’s personal, that makes us feel vulnerable. And feeling vulnerable can feel an unsafe thing for a lot of people.

As managers if we’re sending out the signal that we have got life all taken care of, that we have everything in control, that we’re taking a life in our stride, that we’ve got all of our ducks lined up then that may be sending out the wrong signal to our employees!

Employees may feel unsafe speaking to their manager because they may worry their manager is going to judge them because they haven’t got everything under control. They may worry they will be judged for having an emotional wobble, for struggling to cope.

Behaviour is quite often manager led. Therefore we invite our managers to reflect on what behaviours they are demonstrating that let their team know that they are human! because we all have wobbles! We were designed to have fluctuating emotions, that’s what makes us human and not robots!

We invite managers to reflect on whether they are prepared to be vulnerable. Are they prepared to share with with colleagues, with team members that they haven’t got everything all sown up, that maybe they are experiencing the strain, that they experience stress in their life.

When we’re prepared to be vulnerable ourselves, we send out positive signals to the team that it is okay, not to be okay! It’s okay to have a wobble! It makes us more approachable.

We don’t have to stay in that wobble and our employee wellbeing portal teaches people how to stop wobbling and move forward!

Another example of where we invite managers to reflect on their behaviour is reflecting on how present they are. For example, when somebody picks up the phone to us and says that they need five minutes? Or they knock on our door or they put their head around the door and ask for our time, how present are we? Or are we distracted by our phone, our emails or the next meeting.

Consider that the mind operates, 95% to 99% of the time unconsciously, we have to be mindful that if we’re not sending out the right signals that we are present, then that other person will be picking that up at an unconscious level because we’re always collating data from the environment.

If we know that we haven’t got the full attention of somebody that we’re speaking to, then we might internalise that we not being valued, that we don’t really matter.

It may be that an employee has spent weeks or potentially months building up to speaking out about how they are feeling, only to find that they aren’t getting the right signals that let them feel safe to be vulnerable.

These are just some of the things we invite our managers to reflect on as part of our on line management mental health training. For more information about our programme get in touch now!

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