Date: 11th August 2022
Author: Derek Ma

“The Great Resignation”, the coined phrase of Prof Anthony Klotz, encapsulates the global wave of resignations following the effects of the pandemic lockdowns. Research quoted by Forbes revealed the extended mental stress of the pandemic led workers to actively seek more “flexible working practices, more meaningful work, and better employee benefits”, among other reasons.  


Gallop’s ‘State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report’ key findings reveal that globally, “employee stress levels are at an all-time high”. Mental health is becoming an increasingly central role to employee engagement and retention, and now managers are expected to be able to navigate these situations.  


While any individual who suffers from significant mental stress or any mental disorders should seek professional help, there are some things that we as employers can equip our managers to assist them as they engage their team members. 


Connect Work To A Higher Purpose 


Managers are the front-line staff that engage team members on a consistent basis, yet many are too caught up in meeting deadlines and deliverables to even consider anything else. However, academic research has shown that a sense of purpose at work has significant positive impact on employees productivity and physical well-being. A McKinsey study revealed that “people who live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company.”


Managers absolutely should have these conversations to help their team members understand the bigger picture of their contributions, and connect it to the team member’s personal values and purpose. This is done through engaging team members on a human level, discussing things beyond deliverables, and asking the deeper questions of purpose. Managers need to be trained how and why these conversations are crucial in today’s work environment. 


Conduct a Stay Interview


Kristin Costello, CHRO at Blanchard Companies, describes a great and immediately applicable option any manager can use, The Stay Interview Costello utilizes the ‘Triple R’ Conversations framework:  


  • Reflect Conversations 
  • Reconnect Conversations 
  • Revisit Conversations  

Engaging team members with these types of deeper conversations beyond just deliverables builds trust and promotes physiological safety, which further reinforces their decision to stay. It also allows for candid discussions about potential pain points and feedback for improvement. 


Build A Positive Environment 


Emma Seppälä Kim Cameron, writing for HBR, presents findings that “positive work cultures are more productive” both due to a notable reduction in mental and emotional medical expenses caused from high-stress working environments, as well as increases in productivity. Managers can achieve this through: 

  • Fostering social connections with team members 
  • Showing empathy  
  • Actively helping other team members 
  • Encouraging sharing of struggles.  


Cameron quotes Adam Grant’s book ‘Give and Take’, highlighting the a strong physiological relationship between a positive work environment and physical well-being with “lower heart rates and blood pressure as well as a stronger immune systems.”  


Putting all these things together, we must remember that managers are not mental health professionals, but they are increasingly finding themselves speaking with team members about stress, work-life balance, sense of purpose, and helping them navigate life through the pandemic. It is up to us as employers to ensure we provide the best training and support to our managers as they focus on their team members.  

About the Author 

Derek Ma is the Managing Partner for momenta Group, and is responsible for Ken Blanchard Singapore. Derek exists to maximise impact in every leader he engages through deep self-reflection and active growth. He is also founder and director of Hong Kong-based Meridian Learning, and Lead Consultant Asia for Waverley Learning (UK). Derek’s passion is to coach leaders for personal and professional breakthrough. 

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