I am going to talk about my personal experience in the hope we can be more open, and make real changes in the workplace.
Men culturally find it difficult to talk about personal mental health, especially in the workplace. The more senior you become, the more it is expected that you should be a leader, you should be tough you should be resilient. So in my experience, mental health in the workplace is rarely talked about between men in an authentic way.
Here are some facts about mental health and men
Many companies have started to talk about mental health. The industry I work for, the oil and gas industry, has started to talk about mental health more. The oil and gas industry is not the natural home for talking about mental health.
The industry has talked about mental health much more in recent years. We talked about mental health as a leadership team, we trained mental health first aiders, we created a wellbeing community.
Then four weeks ago, I lost my job. I knew something was changing in the business, and as a leader on a high salary you know it is the risk. The higher up you are, the harder and bigger the fall. My dismissal from service was a brief Thirty-minute phone call and that was that. End of the road. There was some followup from HR, some communication about assistance with placement services, but nothing came of it. Most of the following communication was about the settlement, legal advice, an exchange regarding the calculation of my settlement and usual non-disclosure-agreement. The whole conversation was about finance, settlement contracts, what I would be able to say (or not say) once I left the business. For all intents and purposes, I was signed away.
The really hard bit was suddenly having my daily routine taken away. Interaction with people I had worked with for five years stopped overnight. I lost my sense of purpose and I suppose I lost part of my identity. I did talk about how I felt and I reached out to my old co workrs, who helped enormously with my mental wellbeing. A few people did call me up, but to be honest it felt like they were attempting to alleviate some of their own guilt by making sure I was ‘ok’. Again the focus of the conversation was financial (are you ok financially). But they never really asked me if I was really ok. I said was OK, but I was not really OK. It was a hurtful, disappointing and humiliating experience. I felt despondent and lost. Would my family still respect me? Can I still support my family? Would my reputation be diminished? Would I be able to find another job? This is how people feel when they lose their job.
No doubt many who have been through the same thing have felt exactly the same way and my industry does like to hire and fire so there have been a lot of casualties over the years.
I am enjoying new challenges, learning new things, working with new people, enjoying the sunshine and getting out and doing the thing I love, riding my bike and spending time with my family and my wee boy. But I will not lie, there are still moments when that feeling of a lack of worth comes back to me in quieter moments. I choose to talk about those moments with people I trust.
I feel like a fraud because my last company invested in mental health, but at the most impactful moment of my life, no one asked me the simple question ‘Are you ok? At least not in a really authentic way In a sense I am not part of their future anymore, so the duty of care stops.
I do get it, sometimes business has to make difficult decisions. I am not saying that from a logical business point of view I should not have gone. I probably should have. We were not a good fit with each other. It is not a bad business I left. There are good caring people I respect enormously still working there. No doubt it will succeed in the future, I still have a vested interest with some shares in the business. I wish the business best of luck and good fortune.
But if you really care about people, you should and must support people through a difficult change.
All it takes is one simple question:
‘Are You OK’.
This is one of the resons I have not had many reviews lately and will be looking to get a few up after talks with a number of comanys.
If anyone is going through a difficult time in the current environment and suffering through losing their job. I am happy to talk. I want to know if you are OK. I can share my experiences and talk about the positive action you can take to feel good about yourself again. There is life after losing your job. You can contact me in confidence at [email protected]