Did you know that up to 78% of Short Term Disability claims are related to mental health concerns? Working in the conflict business, I am becoming increasingly aware of the impact of mental health issues in the workplace. So last fall, I signed up for Mental Health Works, a 2 day program put on by the Canadian Mental Health Association (Calgary region) targeted at managers and HR Professionals dealing with mental health issues in the workplace.
I walked away impressed with their simple yet effective strategy for managers to enter into the accommodation or performance management conversation in a meaningful way. It is based on 3 simple steps: I notice; I’m concerned; Let’s focus on solutions at work.
It struck me immediately that it looks very similar to the structure we use in a mediated conversation, and that it is aimed at being preventative. Mediation too, or a structured conversation with an impartial facilitator, can be preventative and will provide the safe space many need for full disclosure.
So my colleague Michelle Phaneuf and I approached Morgan Craig-Broadwith, the Manager of Workplace Wellness for the CMHA, Calgary Region, and we decided to put on a learning breakfast with a simulated mediation based on a mental health issue. There were two purposes to the event:
- To demonstrate a mediation with a simulated scenario.
- To open a conversation about mental health in the workplace.
We conducted the role play live and unscripted in front of an audience of about 30 people, mostly from the HR community in Calgary.
As the role players became safer and more trustful the employee, played by Morgan, disclosed that she was dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Her manager’s reaction was shock, and fear: a genuine reaction born from surprise. Similarly, the employee experienced the accusations and mistrust from her manager that many people in the workplace face.
While the parties did get up and over Conflict Mountain and began searching for options, we had to cut the mediation short before writing up a full agreement to allow time for questions. I think if we do this again we need to allow at least ½ day for the entire event.
- We got some excellent questions from the audience:
- What should be considered when writing up an accommodations plan?
- What do you do when one party does not seem to hear the apology of the other and they appear to be spiraling around the same issues?
- What is important about the written agreement and how do you make sure it is specific enough and hold the parties accountable to it?
- What do you do when participants get frustrated and are uncooperative?
As you can see by the questions, this made for a rich discussion, and each question merits a blog of its own. I have fodder for months, as you can’t do justice in a few sentences for any one of these questions.
Thanks to everyone who participated. We would love to hear more of your feedback. If you were a participant at this event, I am very interested to know if it has influenced your perspective on using a neutral facilitator for those preventative facilitated dialogues.