I was recently caught by surprise when in a monthly business review one of my staff quoted “depression” as the reason for their under-performance, lack of motivation, and what appeared to be a complete disinterest in the job.
The inner cynic in me (developed over 20 years of managing staff and hearing every excuse under the sun) could be heard for miles, or so it felt, screaming “excuses, excuses, excuses”, “get a grip of yourself”, “man up”. Shocking, I know. Don’t berate me just yet reader.
Instead of reacting in a way which would completely trivialise this revelation I decided to get a grip of myself instead, take it at face value and explore further. After all, depression is a genuine health condition and ever increasing according to the media and all the reading I later decided to undertake.
So it got me thinking…Can you actually suffer with depression and function in a sales environment? Can you be successful? Have others in my team suffered from depression? Do they currently suffer? How do they cope with it? What can we do as employers to help them?
It got me asking questions I hadn’t previously asked.
It turns out depression is a more common issue than I had previously realised. In fact, there are two more depression sufferers in my current team – 2 high performing individuals who you’d never have guessed suffer with this health condition – I was honestly surprised. This clearly told me that you can cope with depression and be successful. But how?
The stats and studies indicate that about 1 in 10 people suffer from depression and sales is quoted as one of the top ten professions where employees are likely to develop depression. Apparently 1 in 20 people also suffer from anxiety.
According to my own team member who has been a long term sufferer of both:
“depression and anxiety don’t always come together but they do more often than not. There is still a stigma attached that people who are suffering with the illness are unable to cope in pressurised environments but it’s more about finding a way of dealing with the combination of mental illness and the stress of working life. Despite the stresses of work being able to trigger it, they are two very different things.
Anxiety alone is debilitating, whether it’s feeling uncomfortable in social situations to overthinking every little thing you do and say, or an extreme lack of confidence in your own abilities amongst a list of other things. Everyone has different aspects which affect them. Another symptom is lack of sleep which can obviously cause problems as well.
Depression is a hard word to admit to yourself, especially as it’s widely overused and makes the people who genuinely suffer with it feel like it’s not as important or serious as it is. There is a world of difference between sadness and depression. Depression is like a dark hole in your mind, sometimes you can’t explain why it’s there but it is and just when you think you are managing it (because managing it is as good as it gets) something can trigger the downward spiral.
People with depression often split their lives in to sections, ie. Work, personal, relationships etc and analyse all of them and unfortunately the fact that it’s highly unlikely all sections of life will be going well all the time is a strain.
On a bad day, all the small things that other people take in their stride are 100 times worse, whether it’s the car breaking down or the bus running late etc.”
Tips to help from my team sufferers:
- Workplaces / managers / colleagues have to accept that someone with depression, which is unmanaged and untreated, might not have any reason at all to be in that frame of mind. At this point, after asking them if they want to talk, leaving them alone is normally the best approach unless they are crying on your shoulder!
- In my opinion, the best way for a workplace to manage someone with mental health issues is to remember that everyone deals with it differently and everyone’s triggers are different. Finding out someone’s triggers is a massive first step!
- Telling someone to get a grip or to man up is not effective and if anything will make them feel worse and almost guilty about their frame of mind.
- Finding out whether it’s better for someone to go and take a breather for 5 minutes or just throw themselves back in to work is a good idea.
- Making the working environment open and honest about mental health would be ideal. That way it doesn’t always rest on the management to have to deal with it and it opens up being able to talk to other people who may be able to relate more.
- Don’t be afraid to ask them about how it affects them and what they are doing to help themselves.
For more helpful information and tips on coping see: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/
Please share your personal experiences, tips, advice or any other help you can provide on this issue