I read a book the other day about mental health and wellbeing. My kids buy me books as presents. They know my interest areas. And one big benefit is that they buy books that I’d probably dismiss outright, but need to read to see what others are talking about.
Any book – any author, coach, guru or whatever – must be clearly define what they are talking about. And they mustn’t omit anything – definitions must be complete.
Mental health and wellbeing definitions
In this case, the author talks about mental health and wellbeing as if we all know what those are. That’s a common industry problem. Poor definition and explanation allow the assumption that we all suffer poor mental health and poor wellbeing.
Arguably, assumptions like that are deliberate because they sell apps and services. To counter this apparent tsunami of illness, the author argues that firms must put in place surveys, initiatives, and policies.
Fundamentally, my recent read omits the idea of coping. Coping comes from the notion of balance between demands placed on each employee (at home and at work), and the personal resources that they bring to their home and work life. And it omits the fact that poor wellbeing only exists when, to some greater or lesser extent, the sufferer is incapacitated, or their life enjoyment inhibited. We don’t all suffer poor mental health and poor wellbeing. Most of us cope, and cope well.
Often, it's difficult to completely remove the physiological and psychological load that comes with living a life and doing a job. As an example, it’s difficult for an A&E doctor to simply do less. They must respond to whatever comes in the door. But everyone’s coping mechanisms must be effective. Everyone’s support mechanisms must work. Everyone’s resources must match the demands accepted by them. Everyone’s resources and demands must be in balance. And their manager has a huge part to play.
Simply, employees must cope.
About purpose and future
Coping is bolstered by having a sense of purpose and of future: of not just being ‘in a job’, on a treadmill.
By the author omitting this significant part of the definition, management action from readers will likely be misguided – define the problem wrongly, and you will inevitably develop the wrong solution.
With proper definition the right management action can be developed – to help mitigate the malady, and more significantly, to implement good management such that the firm becomes a place where mental and physical resilience is built.
All about good management
Ensuring good wellbeing in an organisation is synonymous with good management. But management is close up and personal. It’s not about sending a survey to all. It’s about observing and asking to understand coping in each person.
In Because Your People Matter, a playbook for managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders, we take great care over definitions like wellbeing. In every management topic covered we first define. Then we build tactics and models for managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders to use to build robust firms.