[Webinar recap] The Unsaid: Giving managers a tool kit to deal with the tough stuff

Death, divorce, menopause, miscarriage, infertility, burnout and mental ill-health. These are just some of the challenging life situations that managers are helping their employees deal with every day. And this is in addition to being tasked with the more traditionally recognized aspects of the role – like managing team performance, meeting targets, and driving bottom line growth. Basically, our managers are stretched and desperate for support.

Ensuring managers have the right training and resources to lead their teams is a huge lift for HR and People leaders. To lighten the load, we hosted a webinar with Jodi Geddes, co-founder at caregiver employee benefits platform, Circle In. Jodi and our co-founder and COO Melissa Miller talked through the results of Circle In’s recent manager research, The Unsaid, and gave HR teams some very practical ways to arm managers with the resources they need.

Watch the full webinar below and read on for the highlights.

The Unsaid: Personal issues are workplace issues

To set the scene, Jodi kicked off with some key takeaways from Circle In’s research – The Unsaid – Leading with empathy when there’s no support: a manager’s dilemma.

Some of the big picture headlines include:

  • 97% of managers have supported a team member to navigate challenging life issues
  • 8 in 10 managers have not received training in navigating these challenging issues
  • >50% say providing this support is a major part of their role.

In terms of the personal issues managers are supporting team members through, the results were pretty shocking:

  • >50% of managers have supported a team member with mental ill-health
  • 1 in 4 have supported a team members experiencing domestic or family violence
  • 1 in 3 have suported a team member through separation or divorce

Ultimately, Circle In’s research found that managers really do care (we’re not surprised!), and want to manage these situations well. Yet, this aspect of the role does take a toll on them personally:

  • 2 out of 3 say this takes up a considerable percentage of their workload
  • >50% say this impacts their own stress levels
  • 2 out of 3 worry they will say the wrong thing

Putting it into practice: giving your managers a tool kit

“Give them space” “Provide support” “Meet people where they’re at.”

Sound familiar? These are some of the words of advice that managers are often given when dealing with tough situations. 

While these phrases might sound nice, they’re very vague and are really hard to interpret when a manager actually needs to apply them to real life situations.

Against this backdrop, Mel and Jodi had a conversation about very practical ways HR can give managers the support they need.

What to do

Mel walked through several important things that HR can do immediately to support managers. Among others, these included:

  • Optional weekly HR office hours – this creates a safe space for managers to come when they don’t want to discuss a sensitive situation in a large group.
  • Centralizing available HR resources in a simple Google doc or Confluence page – often HR has amazing resources available, but managers just don’t know where to look for them.
  • Create a manager or leadership Slack channel – creating an open space for two-way communication, to share resources, and to encourage questions.

In addition to these tactics, there are also foundations that HR can build to support managers over the longer term. These include:

  • Training managers on the soft skills they need to manage difficult situations
  • Developing a library of situational specific resources to support leaders and give guidance around what to say in those key moments

And HR doesn’t need to go it alone. This is where partners like Circle In and The Mintable can come in to support your team.

What not to do

Just as important as what to do? What NOT to do. This came down to two simple pieces of advice for HR to give managers:

  • Nothing. It’s better to try than to say nothing. If someone has trusted a manager enough to share a deeply personal struggle they’re going through, one of the worst things a manager can do is to say nothing or ignore it. Even if managers do say the wrong thing, there are ways to productively recover.
  • Overcomplicate. Sometimes these situations can feel daunting and hard – because they are daunting and hard! But at the end of the day, we’re all just humans, having a conversation. Mel shared some simple phrases for HR to share with managers that go a long way to help managers show their teams that they’re there to support them.

What to do when it all goes wrong

Even with the very best of intentions, both HR and managers can say the wrong thing. So how do you recover?

  • Apologize. Mean it, own it, and don’t ignore it.
  • Don’t make it about you. Even if you do apologize, don’t center it on how the event has made YOU feel. Even if you’ve had a similar experience, it’s not the same experience. The primary objective in this situation is always to make sure the person feels heard.

A huge thank you to Jodi Geddes for joining us for this important conversation, and for her practical insights into where managers are desperate for support.

To learn more about how The Mintable can give your managers the training, tools, and community to manage these difficult life circumstances, talk to our team.