Fixer: HR isn’t leading by example on mental health issues

23 Jan 2020 By PM Editorial

I’ve been feeling anxious and panicky at work, but my bosses aren’t being supportive

I’ve been an HR manager for 20 years and have always loved my job. Recently though I’ve been feeling the pressure. We’ve just been through a significant round of redundancies, and this, on top of more ER issues now coming our way, as well as the day-to-day plate spinning that is working in HR, means I’ve started to feel anxious and panicky most days. We do a lot of work around employee mental health as an organisation, but when I’ve tried to bring up how I’m feeling with my bosses, they don’t really want to know. It’s like they think because it’s our job to look after everyone else, we should be indestructible ourselves. I don’t want to cause problems, but I’m worried that if this goes on I’ll drop the ball on something and have a negative impact on those I’m meant to be supporting.

How many times do we hear the criticism of HR that the ‘physician should heal thyself’? In other words, HR should lead by example. Yet so often, when conducting culture audits, HR departments are so ingrained in the prevailing culture that they’re the most reactionary when it comes to change. 

Of course, it’s not easy calling out the behaviour of your boss. So perhaps you can point to other indicators that suggest HR doesn’t do as it says and build a wider case. I’m sure the signs will be there in employee surveys and so on; perhaps you could hold focus groups on mental health to back you up. 

If you can’t wait that long, however, think: do you have any allies or mentors among the wider leadership team who can help you address this challenge in the short term? Perhaps there are shining bastions of best practice you can look to, and attempt to influence your boss that way? But however you look at this, all roads lead to the same statement: HR must lead by example. So why isn’t your team? If you’ve noticed, others certainly will.

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