This case of a depressed employee is very typical of how depression affects a company's productivity, morale, and effectiveness. Depression often shows up in people at times that might not be expected. Life's challenges sometimes overwhelm people who are already vulnerable for some pre-existing reason. People who are most vulnerable to having depression triggered by the typical stressors of life are those who derive an inordinate amount of their fulfillment in life from either:
- Harmonious interpersonal relationships
- Obtaining a high amount of positive recognition for high achievements.
Management should be aware when dealing with employees who have a sudden change in:
- Energy level
- Personal appearance.
Here are some things that you can do to be proactive in getting an employee back on track:
1. Confront the situation quickly. A gentle, caring and direct confrontation needs to be made. A person who the employee knows, trusts, and respects is the ideal person to make the confrontation. The designated person needs to avoid sounding at all condescending or authoritarian; but genuine concern needs to be expressed and specific behaviors need to be directly pointed out.
One way to do this is for the person doing the confronting to open with an admission of their own personal struggles, past or present, and how that affected their work behavior. Then they can point out to the depressed person that some specific behaviors have been noticed. But avoid saying anything like, "Everyone is noticing?." The depressed person is embarrassed already and doesn't need to think that everyone is talking about him or her.
2. Be empathic. Empathy is the mental and emotional attitude of actually entering into another person's experience, and standing "beside" them in their feelings, rather than standing above them in pity, judgment or of being "above it all." Empathy says, "I've been where you are emotionally, and I know it's rough." This supportive attitude helps the depressed person immensely because they will no longer feel alone in their pain.
3. Listen to their story. Every depressed person has a story that they are longing to tell, and it is a huge relief to know that someone cares to listen to their life experience. In fact, when depressed people hear themselves relating their story, they can often gain a new perspective on the situation, and sometimes they even realize a solution.
4. Provide a solution to the employee. A counselor needs to be made available at an affordable rate for that employee. There are some brief forms of therapy or counseling that are extremely effective. Cognitive therapy is the most highly respected form of brief therapy today. Medication alone is not the answer.
5. Offer practical assistance within the workplace. Maybe there are some ergonomic concerns that can be addressed; or maybe they need a little temporary assistance with their duties to get back on track. A day or two off work or temporarily reduced hours can help.
6. Follow up. An occasional friendly inquiry about how the person is doing is appreciated and helps the person feel supported. Support is key to overcoming and preventing depression.
7. Create a culture of support. Assign someone on your staff who can be trusted to listen non-judgmentally to any concern that an employee has. Very few employees would abuse such a privilege. Most people do receive fulfillment from accomplishing quality work. They just sometimes hit snags in life and need to vent.
Depression can affect a company's productivity, morale and effectiveness. Recognizing the signs and understanding what kind of help and support can be offered will be extremely helpful for dealing with a depressed employee. A little human kindness and compassion goes a long way toward attaining your organization's goals.
Psychological treatment of depression (psychotherapy) can assist the depressed individual in several ways. First, supportive counseling helps ease the pain of depression, and addresses the feelings of hopelessness that accompany depression. Second, cognitive therapy changes the pessimistic ideas, unrealistic expectations, and overly critical self-evaluations that create depression and sustain it. Cognitive therapy helps the depressed person recognize which life problems are critical, and which are minor. It also helps him/her to develop positive life goals, and a more positive self-assessment. Third, problem solving therapy changes the areas of the person's life that are creating significant stress, and contributing to the depression. This may require behavioral therapy to develop better coping skills, or Interpersonal therapy, to assist in solving relationship problems.
At first glance, this may seem like several different therapies being used to treat depression. However, all of these interventions are used as part of a cognitive treatment approach. Some psychologists use the phrase, cognitive-behavioral therapy and others simply call this approach, cognitive therapy. In practice, both cognitive and behavioral techniques are used together.
Once upon a time, behavior therapy did not pay any attention to cognitions, such as perceptions, evaluations or expectations. Behavior therapy only studied behavior that could be observed and measured. But, psychology is a science, studying human thoughts, emotions and behavior. Scientific research has found that perceptions, expectations, values, attitudes, personal evaluations of self and others, fears, desires, etc. are all human experiences that affect behavior. Also, our behavior, and the behavior of others, affects all of those cognitive experiences as well. Thus, cognitive and behavioral experiences are intertwined, and must be studied, changed or eliminated, as an interactive pair.