Added 26 April 2023

Why should a manager know how to support an employee in crisis?

I hope that there are already few people who believe that problems in private life, mood disorders or difficulties in relationships with family do not completely affect the functioning and behavior of an employee. Of course, there will always be a group of high-functioning people from whom this impact will not be apparent, but a long-term mental crisis will sooner or later take its toll on an employee’s productivity and relationship with the team.

In recent years, I have conducted hundreds of training sessions for managers, and among the several thousand people trained, only a few expressed opposition to the idea of asking employees about their problems in their private lives. Contrary to popular opinion, “I wouldn’t/shouldn’t want anyone to know about it” falls very rarely. Changes in behavior are a clear behavioral message, but employees already complaining about a lack of energy or mentioning their difficulties in their private lives opens the door a bit to see if anyone would like to look deeper after all. And we don’t always know and don’t always know how to recognize that this is an invitation to talk.

Employees who are given various forms of psychological help and support by companies when they go through a crisis improve their performance quite quickly and their crisis lasts shorter. I don’t want to give numbers and parameters here, because what matters more to us at the Mental Health Center is that such help is simply a human gesture, easing the way through a difficult period, and because that’s just the decent thing to do.

Not everyone knows what to do in such a situation, how to guide the conversation and what words to use so as not to inadvertently trivialize the problem. It may turn out that we will hear about issues that move us strongly. A seriously ill child, the fatigue of caring for a senior citizen with dementia, a difficult divorce, the death of a family member, a miscarriage. Sometimes it will be problems with children, sometimes neglect of one’s own energy level.

It is one thing to recognize changes in an employee’s behavior and know about the various signals, and this, despite appearances, is not difficult. It is much more difficult to initiate a conversation, to know what to say, to determine the real needs, and to match this with tools that will help the employee – this is already a more complicated task. It always moves me to listen to managers who care about being simply human. And even though pandemic, war, global crises are taking their toll on everyone, including them, and our empathy levels are dropping, which is normal when we’re under stress and in survival mode – right now we need to learn how to support employees healthily and within limits that won’t put more strain on the manager and the entire team.

How to do it? We invite you to our training courses – for a full lecture offer, please email:

Dr. Małgorzata Wypych


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