Work and Mental Health: A Surprising New Finding

Who has the greatest impact on someone’s mental health?  Their spouse?  Their children?  Their therapist?  It turns out that nobody has a greater factor than their manager.

According to a new study from The Workforce Institute at UKG: “for better or worse, managers have a greater impact on our mental health than doctors and therapists — and even equal to that of spouses and partners.” Their study surveyed 3,400 people across 10 countries to spotlight the critical role our jobs, leadership, and, most of all, our managers play in supporting mental health in and outside of work.

It found that 69% of people stated their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health – being equal with that of their spouse or partner.  Other revealing findings in the study included:

  • 60% of employees worldwide say their job is the biggest factor influencing their mental health
  • 81% of employees worldwide would prioritize good mental health over a high-paying job
  • 64% admit they would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness.
  • 78% of employees said stress negatively impacted their work performance.

This study reinforces what many others have found about increasing levels of stress in the workplace and in life in general.  It’s doubtful that stressful situations are going to substantially decline.  So, what can individuals and organizations do to manage stress and its impact?

Experts say that there are practical techniques for managing stress that can be learned and that when applied can reduce the negative toll of workplace stress.

“Deadlines, competing commitments and overall workplace change can be challenging,” says Dr. Casey Mulqueen, TRACOM’s Senior Director of Learning & Development. “But the underlying problem is usually not the work tasks themselves but how we think about them.”

“Frequently we allow a few negative aspects of work to dominate our mindset and create stress,” Mulqueen says.  “But learning how to manage our thinking with resilience techniques allows us to react to stress or change in a more productive and healthy way.”

TRACOM’s work in resilience shows that all people are affected by a fear of change and cognitive biases that limit our productivity.  This is known as a Negativity Bias and it can affect  people differently. For example, some people internalize responsibility on themselves where others typically blame others.  Few people are naturally aware of their own patterns of dealing with stress or have the skills to overcome them without training.  TRACOM’s Resilience programs identify each person’s Negativity Bias Pattern and then teach practical techniques to break the pattern and respond more productively.

Given that managers have such great influence on their teams, it’s especially important that they develop resilience skills. Demonstrating an ability to navigate workplace change to their employees both sets a good example and can be contagious.

“When leaders show good behavior and resilience, others tend to do the same,” according to Mulqueen.  “Resilient leaders build resilient teams and resilient teams drive high performance.”

Resilient people:

  • are better able to manage their work and personal commitments; »
  • adapt better to adversity and change
  • have less depression and anxiety
  • are more satisfied with their lives

Learn more about TRACOM’s Adaptive Mindset for Resilience programs.

Watch client videos about the need for and benefits of Resilience training