Co-authored by: Kevin (Kazuhito) Naruse and Caitlin Adornato

When companies focus solely on doing what’s best for their bottom line, it often comes at the expense of employee mental health. This leads to employee burnout and a negative work environment. This has repercussions not only on a human level but also on a business level.  It’s time to move away from traditional toxic business practices and start working smarter. 

A workplace culture rife with social pain is a festering ground for depression and hurts the bottom line

Historians looking back from future generations should be surprised that we worked with such little consideration to social threats in the workplace. The feeling of lacking safety created by our excessive focus on the bottom line ignores one of the fundamental psychological needs of all human beings. 

There are many practices common in the workplace that make this disregard clear. Ineffective and outdated practices need to be replaced with better and healthier options.

Management By Fear

Management in the United States has been focused on growth for its own sake, cutting costs to maximize revenues and treating employees as expendable assets rather than people. This is more prevalent in some industries than others, but the use of fear and reward to motivate or punish is commonplace.

Praise should be given generously, and criticism should be reserved for when it is strictly necessary. Consequences have their place and can be necessary, but they should be used in moderation. It’s also important that reprimands are given in private. Public humiliation only incites fear and resentment.

Studies have long shown that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment. External negativity combines with our instinct to criticize ourselves internally. This culmination of negative feedback makes mental health issues inevitable.

Management by Miscommunication

If employees make repeated mistakes, there are two possibilities:

  • The task doesn’t match the employee’s competency or
  • They have been given unclear instructions.

Check in with your employees. Make sure your instructions are clear and that they have understood them. Miscommunication happens all the time and is frustrating on both ends.

If tasks are still being mishandled, reexamine your delegation. You may be giving the wrong tasks to the wrong people.

Redelegate. Provide support, training, and resources to those that are struggling.

Workplace Mental Health “First Aid” is TOO LATE!  Focus on Prevention.

Debbie Jeremiah, Chief Thinking Officer at said it perfectly:

“Psychological safety is the sense that when you offer up your thoughts, ideas and questions or you highlight mistakes, you will still be accepted and respected.”

If it is you whose mistake is being highlighted, you will be given feedback in a supportive and respectful way, not being made a scapegoat, or ridiculed.

The feeling of having psychological safety is one of the fundamental psychological needs of all human beings, without which is a festering ground for mental health issues in the workplace and all the economic damage, losses, and separate human tragedies each can create and engender.

If employees do not have this feeling of psychological safety, any band-aid solutions won’t be enough. It’s important to address the root of the problem and prevent distress and burn-out.

Further Reading

Now you know what not to do, but what should you be doing instead to empower your employees and foster a positive work environment? Check out part 2 here to find out. You can also learn how to effectively implement technology for mental wellness here.


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