Ask Amy — Practical Advice for Supervisors: How Can I Help Support Employees’ Emotional Well-being?

A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources

What does employees’ emotional well-being mean for their success at Valencia? What should supervisors do to support employee emotional well-being?

The impact of work on personal identity, self-esteem and social recognition is hard to measure, but many mental health professionals today agree that the workplace environment can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental well-being.

With much of today’s work (especially in higher education) being knowledge work, the impact of emotional stability and positive mental health is critical to our ability to support our students through curricula, instruction, advising and co-curricular development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Thus, as supervisors, we can and should support the development of work environments that provide for the emotional well-being of our colleagues — enabling them to more effectively serve our students.

Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways that you, as a supervisor, can support our employees’ mental health.

Intentional, Positive Leadership
As supervisors, we can use intentional, positive leadership to cultivate a culture that promotes mental wellness among employees. Below are some controllable factors that we can leverage to creative positive work environments:

  • clear and compassionate communication;
  • participation in decision-making;
  • adequate and accessible emotional support for employees;
  • clear roles, tasks and objectives;
  • balanced workload;
  • demonstrations of respect and recognition at work;
  • equity and a sense of belonging;
  • strong interpersonal bonds/team cohesion;
  • an environment free from harassment of any kind; and
  • an ability to manage the demands of work and home.

As a supervisor, the impact you have extends beyond your individual interactions with your colleagues to the kind of environment you create at work. You set the tone and establish the norms that let your team members know what to expect in their interactions with one another. Creating a stable work environment where colleagues are able to accurately anticipate how they will be treated (even when they have made a mistake) helps us feel calm and connected at work. In fact, a study published in the “Academy of Management Journal” found that workers would prefer an unfair boss over an unpredictable boss, noting that the uncertainty of reactions causes more strain on emotional well-being than consistently bad supervision.

I encourage you to reflect on how YOU feel at work. If you feel positive about your work environment, what about the situation leads you to feel this way? What role does YOUR supervisor play in creating this environment? By focusing on how and why you experience your workplace the way you do, you may begin to recognize opportunities to actively create an environment where all employees feel valued, welcomed and a sense of belonging.

Utilization of Resources
Of course, there many factors outside of work that positively or negatively contribute to mental health. Every Valencia employee is a whole person, with challenges, opportunities and hurdles they face outside of Valencia. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to support employees in need. Full-time employees have access to our Employee Assistance Program. Likewise, employees enrolled in certain UnitedHealthcare plans can seek professional help without any out-of-pocket expense. As a supervisor, you can also encourage and approve the use of certificates of absence like personal and sick leave for employees to take the time they need to heal emotionally.

If you’re looking for additional resources to help employees in a time of need, do not hesitate to contact Organizational Development and Human Resources (ODHR) at HR4U@valenciacollege.edu or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748). The ODHR team is always available to help you help others.

Ask Amy” is designed to provide supervisors with guidance to successfully navigate opportunities and challenges in your daily work, as you create a culture for employee success within your teams. Each month, I, along with featured guest contributors, will address a question and offer practical solutions from which all supervisors can benefit.

If you would like to ask a question, simply email me with “Ask Amy” in the subject line. Submissions will be included anonymously in the Supervisor Segment and The Grove, and will be addressed monthly as they are received.

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