Category Archives: Leadership

We Need to Talk: Opening the Doors to a Dialogue about Mental Health in the Workplace

IMG_1662Every day I visit workplaces across this beautiful country (and beyond) and I hear stories of the challenges facing people as they conduct their lives. We all have a story. Many of us are unable or unwilling to share our story with others. We are afraid to truly let others see us and know our truth.

Whatever your views are about confidentiality and privacy; I believe that we need to open the doors – no, tear down the doors – to enable a full dialogue about mental health in the workplace. We are living in a time in which people are literally dying with their story still inside; and that can be changed.

At this delicate time of year, a struggle for many people who experience mental health challenges, it is particularly important to direct our attention to this topic.

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a beautiful young woman this year. Her name is Jasmine Zyzniewski and she is a 4th year psychology student at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Jasmine is not only beautiful, she is smart, confident, and sociable; and Jasmine has a story. What impressed me most when I met her, was her willingness to be who she is, to share her truth and to demonstrate the strength of character it takes to be truly authentic.

Here is some of her story.

      I can remember waking up one morning and feeling the panic set in. It had been years since I had been diagnosed with my anxiety and panic disorder, so I knew what the day was going to bring. Severe hallucinations and blackouts were on the menu and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through a day of work. I called my boss and was forced to make up an excuse for why I couldn’t come in. “Sorry, I have the flu” or “There has been a family emergency”, were two of my favorites. Sadly enough, after conversations with others who suffer from a mental illness, I realized I wasn’t alone in the “excuse-making” skills that I had developed.

     According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 percent of our population will be directly affected by a mental illness in their lifetime. This means that one in five people that we casually walk past on the street are currently struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or one of the many other mental illnesses that our society claims to understand and acknowledge. So why is it that most of our workplaces, where we spend a vast majority of our time, aren’t accepting or open to talk about mental health? Or better yet, why do those who suffer with mental illnesses feel as if a “mental health day” is not a good enough reason to miss work when it is necessary? If it is okay to miss work because I have a cold or a back ache, why is it not okay to miss work when I am experiencing a depressive episode or a particularly bad time with my anxiety?

     I know – maybe you think I will take advantage of your sick plan; that I will ‘fake it’. Well, trust me…I will no more fake a mental illness than I will lie about a physical illness. So, let’s just put that argument to rest.

     Consider, if you will, a few more relevant statistics. The Mental Health Commission of Canada states that mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30 percent of short and long term disability claims from employees. The financial impact to the Canadian economy is significant.  Of all claims placed, 47 percent of those that were approved were also mental health related. Therefore, I believe it is time to take action within our workplaces to ensure that employees feel safe enough to talk about mental health so that they can take early measures to maintain this area of their health and well-being.

     To do this, the Workplace Mental Health Promotion initiative of the Ontario CMHA believes that employers may need to address the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health in the workplace and be willing to make positive changes to adapt to those who suffer from them.  It has been my personal experience to feel embarrassed about my mental health. Because of this embarrassment, I isolated myself from society and avoided treatment options in fear of others finding out about my mental illness. Although I realize now that having both a support system at home and at work could have sped up my recovery process and put me on a path of healing and transformation.

     So, let’s not waste any more time. The Ontario CMHA has come up with a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that employers should take note of in order to create a safe and open space for those suffering from mental health issues.

Don’t:

  • Portray successful people with disabilities as the exception
  • Use generic labels; many of the terms I hear on a daily basis are “retarded”, “crazy” and “psycho”
  • Use the term “insane”; this is strictly reserved for legal purposes
  • Allow others to use these terms in your presence (When these terms are used within a workplace, people will begin to feel isolated and ashamed of their mental health. The negative repercussions that I have observed can include everything from choosing to leave the workplace entirely, to experiencing an epic destruction to your self-esteem and sense of well-being.)

 Do:

  • Use respectful language at all times (It is okay to say that I have a mental illness; it is not contagious, it is like any other illness – cancer, heart disease, diabetes – it is simply something with which I have to learn to cope
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations; I have far more gifts than I do limitations
  • Refer to the person, not their disability or mental illness
  • Stop stigmatizing attitudes in their tracks!

      A few small changes in language surrounding mental health in the workplace could extremely influence the positive support that is perceived and received by those with mental illnesses. Make your employees feel safe and welcome within the workplace, I promise everyone will benefit.

Isn’t she lovely…you can see why I like her. Not only is she an accomplished student who will surely go places in her career, she is a thoughtful young woman who has something important to say. I am grateful that she can say it here – with me – and to important people like you.

As you pass people in the malls, on the streets and in your workplaces; I invite you to pause, to take just a moment to see people, to hear them. You never know what will transpire. You never know what conversation might ensue. It might even be one that you did not know you needed to have.

Happy Holidays, one and all. Let’s go out and change the world!

Co-wrtitten by:

Jasmine Zyzniewski is a fourth and final year student completing her BA in Psychology with a minor in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies. She aims to normalize and contribute to mental health awareness through optimistic and positive reflections on herself and her surroundings. Alongside her studies, she loves DIY crafts, spending time with family and any good book she can get her hands on.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

How to Have a Caring Conversation with Someone who is Making You Miserable

WomenShakeHands3“My boss is a bully.”

“My co-worker constantly berates me for making even the smallest error, or asking what she deems a ‘stupid’ question.”

“My colleague’s voice tone is condescending and insulting toward me when we are in meetings.”

Do you work with someone whose behavior is challenging your energy and enthusiasm for work? Maybe it’s a family member, who you find yourself avoiding because he or she is a real ‘downer’ at family gatherings.

Having a caring conversation with someone who is making you miserable can be challenging. Like most conversations that are worth having, this one requires a little bit of planning and foresight. Also, like most conversations that are worth having, this is one that you will surely be glad you have had, after it is done.

Remember these simple tips as you prepare for your conversation:

Purpose prevails.

Think about your purpose in having this conversation with this person. Why is it important? What impact is the challenging behavior having on your relationship? What’s in it for you and for the other person, to change the course of your communication in the future?

What’s recent is remembered.

When you are preparing for the conversation, think about and address only the most recent example of challenging behavior. For example, you might say “Yesterday you yelled at me and called me ‘irresponsible’ when I made an error in the order.” That is more effective than saying “You always yell at me.” or “You are a bully”. or “Three weeks ago you yelled at me.” When your language is about a specific occasion that is fresh in the other person’s mind, you can more easily focus your conversation on that one example.

Anticipation beats aggravation.

Before you meet with the other person, think about how you imagine he or she will react to what you wish to discuss. What might he say? How might she behave? If you are able to anticipate his or her reaction, you can prepare yourself for it. Sometimes this helps you in thinking about how you will open your conversation. For example, you might start with “Sally, I know that you are struggling with some tough things in your life right now.” or “George, we have not spent a lot of quality time together at these family gatherings because there is often so much going on.”

Empathy enlightens.

Whatever happens during the conversation, choose to empathize, to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. When you empathize, you naturally ask questions to help you understand (their position), rather than defend (your position). “Joe, it seems to be frustrating for you to have to keep training new staff, only to have them leave after only a few months.”

Openness leads to opportunity.

Choose, as you prepare for the conversation, to be open. Although you prepare ahead of time for what you want to say, you are also open to hearing new information that can help you to determine – together – how you can get along moving forward.  Sitting in silence, breathing deeply, and repeating the words ‘I am open’ before you meet with this person, can help you be in a positive place when you enter the meeting.

Hopeful helps.

End with a statement about how you are confident and hopeful about the future of your relationship with this person. In fact, start with this as your opening also!

Opening: “Jane, I value you as my leader, and I’d like to have a conversation about something that is getting in the way of our working relationship. I know that after we have this conversation, my performance will be enhanced and so will our department’s results.”

Closing: “I sincerely appreciate your time today, Jane, and I am confident that we will be able to continue to develop the kind of working relationship that will help us both to achieve our goals.”

Positive propels!

The next time you see something positive from that person, point it out! Even if the positive occasion is a rare one, take time to show your appreciation. The more you focus on ‘what’s good’, the more of that you will get!

Have you got any tips to share – something that has worked for you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell a Story, Change a Life

Ali and Max 2000

Ali and Max 2000

Christmas morning, 2000. Max was 3 and Ali was 6. Our tradition had been (and still is) that Randy headed down stairs to turn on the tree lights and grab the video camera. Then Ali, Max and I march down stairs for the big ‘reveal’ of the tree and all it’s splendor, the gifts waiting to be opened, the bursting full stockings, and – of course – the plate of crumbs and empty glass of milk left by Santa.

 

 

Ali and Max stood side by side, eyes wide open and smiles bigger than their faces, saying some version of ‘Santa came, Santa was here!’.
Randy began to ask questions (for our video collection which Randy and I are pretty sure we will spend our retirement going over and over and over!!).
‘So, did anyone hear anything on the rooftop last night?’
‘Yes, yes , yes!!’ says Ali.
‘I heard footsteps and I also heard some clicking sounds – I think it was Santa and Rudolph!!’
‘Then I heard some crunching sounds and drinking sounds – like chew, chew, chew and glug, glug, glug – it was Santa eating the treat we left him! He must have liked it – look, it’s all gone!’

Max’s eyes got even bigger as he listened to Ali describe all of the sounds she heard.
‘Me too…that is what I heard! I heard Santa and Rudolph too! I did!!!!’  Enthusiasm and conviction radiated from his every pore!

I can remember that morning as clear as a bell. As Ali described the story of what she had ‘experienced’, Max was also living that story. Just like maybe you are experiencing a similar story from your life, just by reading this one from mine.

Leo Wildrich wrote a blog post called What listening to a story does to our brains.  In that post, Leo shares:

“When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says Uri Hasson from Princeton:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized.  When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.  When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you’ve activated that way, active too.

That’s what happened when Ali told her story of Santa and Rudolph; Max’s brain synchronized with hers.  She, in essence, gave him his first gift that Christmas morning!

Brains love stories.  When we hear a story, we relate it to our own experience and that helps the story to ‘stick’ in our minds.

Leo adds four tips for using stories as a communication tool: 1) Tell stories that reflect something important you’d like the listener to think, feel or do (their brain will turn the story into something from their own experience – and it will become ‘their’ story); 2) Write using stories – your own or those of another expert to persuade your audience; 3) Keep your stories simple (less complex stories are ‘stickier’), and 4) Use colorful, emotional words in your stories (some words or phrases like ‘a bad day’ or ‘be responsible’ are overused and begin to lack meaning for people and, thus, lack ‘stickiness’).

So, as the holiday season approaches, what stories can you share – at home and at work? I’d love to hear one of your stories from holidays past (and my brain will definitely thank you – as will the brains of everyone else who reads your story!)  Let’s spread some good holiday storytelling cheer!!

 

 

Immunize Your Organization Against Negativity

positivity=productivityI just had my flu shot – the last couple of years the Government of Canada has recommended that we ‘Get the Shot, Not the Flu’.  The purpose of an immunization – although it is not guaranteed – is to provide yourself with as much protection as possible from contracting the influenza virus (which can be very nasty and long-lasting – in addition to being highly contagious).  I ran into a doctor friend of mine who said that last year she and her family missed the shot, and they were ‘down’ for about 2 months in total as the flu made it’s way through their home.

So, if we can immunize ourselves from the nasty effects of influenza with a vaccine, what can you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity (which can absolutely be nasty – and contagious – costing you and your organization time, energy, and money)?

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.  The prescription is a daily dose of P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.:

is for Present: This is about more than just showing up, it’s about really being there in mind and body. Something that can help you be fully present is to remember to take regular breaks, and during your breaks be mindful to how you are feeling, and what you are thinking.  If you are more present, you’ll help to encourage everyone in your organization to do the same.

O is for Optimistic: What are you thinking?  Literally.  Is your internal dialogue filled with hope and possibility?  Do you speak about setbacks as temporary, and as opportunities to learn? Change your internal and external dialogue and notice what new things you notice.

S is for Shared:  Ensure that everyone in your organization has a voice.  Your culture is shared – whether you know it or not – so why not make sure you seek out the voice that works FOR you, rather than falling victim to the one that might work AGAINST you.

I is for Intentional: Do not leave your organizational culture to chance.  Be intentional about what you want to create – within your organization, and outside in the community and world in which you exist.

T is for Thank-full: Gratitude is the #1 strategy for happiness (which equates to energy and productivity in organizational terms). Look for ways to be grateful each day.  (Start each meeting with a reflection on what’s good in your organization; at the end of the day, notice one thing for which you are thankful that day, etc.). And, of course, let the people in your life know how grateful you are for them.

I is for Inspired: Allow everyone in the organization to see – every day – how they are part of something bigger than themselves.  Help them to see just how connected we all are.  (I think this video illustrates some of that sentiment.)

V is for Vulnerable: According to Dr. Brene Brown, ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Need I say more?  Be yourself, try new things, make mistakes and talk about them – get real with people around you.  You – and they – will be glad you did.

E is for Energized: If you do something from each of the above every day, you’ll be energized!  On top of that, remember these other things that are not only good for your body, they are good for your mind; smile (even a fake one has positive effects), eat well (most of the time – in grade 5 my son learned about the 80/20 rule…eat until you are 80% full, make healthy choices 80% of the time…makes sense to me), drink water, and move as much as you can (hop, jump, run, walk, dance).

What do you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!

 

Four Keys to Manage You Moods

Mood Manager App due to be released soon!

“He’s in a mood today”.  That’s what Sarah said to me when we met to talk about an event she was planning.  I was going to be meeting her manager for the first time, and Sarah wanted to warn me that Tom was in ‘a mood’, before he entered the room.  I wondered how Tom might feel if he had known that Sarah – and likely everyone else that worked with him – felt they needed to alter their behavior based on their manager’s mood.  In fact, it seemed clear to me, that Sarah’s mood was directly impacted by Tom’s.

Tom might argue that his moods are no one’s business; he gets the job done and that is what he is being paid to do.  But is he really getting the job done, if he is negatively impacting the people around him?

I believe that most of us would rather be in a ‘good’ (positive) mood (Tom too!), and we’d rather be working with people who are in a good mood too.  Stress, overwhelming workloads, and the constant connection to technology seemingly required to function these days can cause the most calm of us to feel tense and anxious in short order.  And that is costing us – big time.  

Arianna Huffington, in her article “Burnout: The Disease of our Civilization” shares some interesting statistics on the real costs of burnout, including how “not only is there no trade-off between high performance and living a full life, the former is not possible in a sustainable way without the latter. And this applies to both companies and individuals.”

She goes on to say “There is no company whose bottom line will not be enhanced by healthier, happier, less-stressed, well-slept, centered employees.  

One of the primary things keeping many businesses from adopting more sane and sustainable metrics of success is the stubborn — and dangerously wrongheaded — myth that prioritizing health and well being is incompatible with a healthy bottom line — and that there is a trade-off between high performance and taking care of ourselves. As countless studies show, this couldn’t be less true.”

While exercise programs, meditation rooms, and sponsored yoga classes are all great for creating a healthier (happier and more productive) organization, mood management is just as important. Moods are like viruses…they spread…within you and outside of you to others. In the end, mood management can be a matter of life and death.

I had the honor of delivering a TEDxManitoba talk, titled ‘Choose Life’ that goes directly to the heart of this matter.  Take a few mintues (14:39 to be exact) to watch, and let me know what you think.

In the video, I describe one strategy for mood management – be curious, caring and connected. When you start noticing even the slightest change in your mood (the way you feel), remember to PACE yourself:

Pause: Take a moment to stop and reflect.

Ask yourself (be curious): ‘What am I seeing, hearing, feeling right now?’  ‘What’s my story?’

Care: Express self-compassion.  Rather than judging yourself for the way you are feeling, or for the thoughts you might be having, simply say to yourself ‘This is a challenging time right now.’

Engage: Connect with others.  Speak with a trusted friend or co-worker to talk through a complicated situation.  (Connecting with others is REALLY important!  Check out this post about the dangers of social isolation.)

Tom could benefit from a little mood management – and he will likely be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to him…and to the people with whom he works.  Sarah too.  How about you? Need a little mood management in your life?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!