Everyone gets the blues or feels sad from time to time. However, depression is more than just sadness. Depression is a real illness and carries with it a high cost in terms of relationship problems, family suffering and lost work productivity. Fortunately, depression is a highly treatable illness.
Depression affects your employees
Depression can affect your workers’ productivity, judgment, ability to work with others, and overall job performance. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions may lead to costly mistakes or accidents. In addition, it has been shown that depressed individuals have high rates of absenteeism and are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, resulting in other problems on and off the job.
Unfortunately, many depressed people suffer needlessly because they feel embarrassed, fear being perceived as weak or do not recognize depression as a treatable illness.
In the workplace, symptoms of depression often may be recognized by:
- Decreased productivity
- Morale problems
- Lack of cooperation
- Safety risks, accidents
- Frequent statements about being tired all the time
- Complaints of unexplained aches and pains
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
What can a supervisor do?
- Know what to say: “I’m concerned that you’ve been late to work recently and aren’t meeting your performance objectives. I’d like to see you get back on track. I don’t know whether this is the case for you, but if you have a personal problem you can speak confidentially to one of our employee assistance counselors.”
- Learn about depression and the sources of help. For more information, visit National Institute of Mental Health. URL: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml.
- Recognize when an employee shows signs of a problem affecting performance, which may be depression-related, and refer appropriately. When a previously productive employee begins to be absent or tardy frequently, or usually is forgetful and error-prone, he may be experiencing a significant personal health problem.
- Discuss changes in work performance with the employee. You may suggest that the employee seek consultation if there is a personal problem. Confidentiality of any discussion with the employee is critical.
- Remember that severe depression may be life-threatening to the employee, but rarely to others. If an employee makes comments like “life is not worth living” or “people would be better off without me,” take the threats seriously.