05 August 2023

Happy Managers: The Why Nows & How Nows of Manager Health

Recently, Melis Abacioglu, CEO of Wellbees, hosted a webinar on the state of managers' wellbeing and how to support leaders across the globe. 


In the webinar, Melis summarized the research and data Wellbees's team uncovered over three years and projected trends around manager well-being over the next year. Let’s dive into what Wellbees discovered. 


Managers bear the brunt of any crisis.


Most crises, specifically economic ones, have a disproportionately high negative impact on manager well-being. This is because managers are generally on the frontlines of guiding their teams through uncertainty, lay-offs, internal restructuring, and other big organisational changes. They're the ones that have to balance their attention and efforts between fulfilling the demands of the C-Suite while tending to the needs of their team members. Since these changes tend to happen most often during economic crises when business is plateauing or slowing, these are the time frames when managers need the most support and transparency from their leaders. 


COVID-19, the energy crisis, shifting world politics, and high inflation have all been crises layered on top of one another, putting managers in an untenable position to reassure their teams and maintain morale, collaboration, and performance—not an easy task.


We’ve found that 69% of employees report that their manager has the greatest impact on their mental health; that's right on par with the impact one's spouse has on their stress levels. So, the surest way of supporting your employees’ mental well-being is to ensure their managers have the adequate resources, information, and strategy to guide their team effectively.


Supporting inclusive management & supportive leadership within your organisation


Two of the most important psychological safety elements are ensuring your organisation has inclusive management and supportive leadership. Psychological safety means expressing your thoughts at work without fearing being dismissed, included, respected, or retaliated against. 


Inclusive management combines working inclusively towards a common goal, making decisions with all voices heard, and ensuring that managers and those being managed understand the wider framework and support structures of inclusivity in the organisation. And finally, supportive leadership is defined as a leadership style where a manager does not simply delegate tasks and receive results but instead supports an employee in completing that task.


Defining these terms is important because they’re often used without managers or other professionals understanding what they entail. Managers who embody both leadership styles are less likely to feel burned out and disengaged from their work and team. More than that, employees under the direction of a manager trained and familiar with how to employ these leadership styles are more likely to feel motivated, connected to their work and team, and overall more satisfied with their jobs.


Your Managers are Toast


When we look at the data we've collected across five regions over the last three years, we see a drastic difference between employee and manager well-being. 


Managers rank lower on all of the following wellbeing factors:


  • Quality of sleep
  • Stress levels
  • Depressive thoughts & feelings
  • Anxiety levels
  • Loneliness & isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities at home and work


Given the close correlation between manager wellbeing and employee wellbeing, organizations must look specifically at actions to support their leadership better.


Measure, measure, measure!


The first thing organisations can begin doing is measuring well-being factors across all parts of their organisations. Wellbees uses a proprietary measuring tool to see where there are pockets of high and low overall employee and manager well-being throughout the organisation. With this data, organisations can see what's working and what needs to be improved in specific departments or teams.



How to get manager well-being back on track:


  1. Training: We've seen that training has the highest positive impact on manager wellbeing, equipping them with the social-emotional skills and tools to effectively guide, mentor, and lead their teams. 


  1. Create opportunities for connection among managers: Managers are human, too! That means they also need opportunities to connect with others in similar situations to share best practices, unpack failures, talk through challenges they're facing, and foster a sense of belonging among their fellow managers and within their organisation. Because we know the significance of socialising, at the core of Wellbees is a social element that encourages and creates opportunities for gathering among teams and departments.


  1. Encourage vulnerability among managers: No organisation can cope with change and continue being innovative and productive without employees with the soft skills to be vulnerable and engage in healthy communication. This means that employees at all levels, especially managers, should be encouraged to be vulnerable without retaliation or exclusion. This is your opportunity to applaud managers who stand out as authentic, transparent, and vulnerable. This could look like praising a manager for setting boundaries and encouraging managers to share aspects of their lives—highlighting that managers and employees alike can show up to work as whole people.


Taking care of your managers is a long-game strategy.


No one solution will result in high manager well-being overnight. Still, with the right combination of tools and interventions supported from the top down over time, organisations can drive higher performance and retention across not just their managers but all workforce levels.

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