20 years ago mental health was rarely talked about and certainly not in the workplace. Even when it was spoken about, it was done so in a very different way to today. We have made great inroads when it comes to mental health, both society as a whole and in our workplaces, with the pandemic further intensifying the focus:
- There is now much greater awareness of mental health.
- We (generally speaking) have much more support available.
- Mental health is no longer a ‘taboo’ subject, more and more people are feeling able to speak out.
With any move towards major change, we typically see a flurry of activity and focus at the beginning. Over time, once we start to see some good results, focus wanes and we tend to relax a little and take our foot off the accelerator. That’s when things get missed. When it comes to mental health in the workplace, where once we checked in weekly, perhaps it has fallen to monthly. Where once we asked how a colleague was and asked a second time if their response was “Fine”, perhaps now we just ask the once, or not at all. Because mental health is no longer a taboo subject and awareness of the issues surrounding mental health have become so embedded in our everyday culture and language, it can be easy to assume that we don’t need to ask the question anymore “Are you OK?”.
The problem, of course, is that we’re just not there yet. Yes, we should recognise our progress but not at the detriment of losing focus and taking our foot off the accelerator. There is still fear attached to speaking out and in some professions and industries in particular, evidence suggests that talking to someone might be even difficult.
Mental Health and Sales People
We work with sales people every day. The majority of sales people are extroverts. Typically, these are charismatic individuals who thrive in the company of others. Even for sales people who are more introverted or reserved, it is a fact that the nature of the job requires them to be resilient, adaptable, great communicators, driven and motivated. For individuals for whom these are the expectations (whether explicitly expressed or not), admitting you are struggling with your mental health can be especially challenging. This is because many of the symptoms we often associate with mental health challenges can appear to sit in direct contrast with those characteristics and behaviours expected of sales people. Similarly to those in leadership roles, for a sales person, there can be genuine fear that saying you’re experiencing mental health problems will call into question your ability to do your job effectively.
And let’s not forget that sales people have sales targets. The constant pressure of this, combined with the knowledge that taking any kind of time off could directly impact future sales results, only serves to compound the issue.
A study done by employee wellbeing specialists, raiys, found that sales people were three and a half times more likely to take time off for mental health than people in other positions. This is staggering – three and a half times more likely!
Perhaps this statistic could be seen as promising, a step in the right direction. After all, if sales people are taking the time off to address their mental health, this can only be a good thing, right? However, to see this as progress would be to ignore the underlying issues. We need to look at why sales people are so much more likely to take time off for mental health reasons than their colleagues in other positions.
So, what can we do to support our sales people?
We need to start by creating a culture within our sales teams where mental health is spoken about regularly. It is only by continuing to raise awareness and keeping the conversation going that we’ll make positive changes. We also need to work hard to break some of the more unhelpful stereotypes, associations and misconceptions that surround sales people and mental health.
Additionally, we know that sales is a high-pressure profession and so we must help our sales people to manage that pressure through regular 1-2-1’s, continual reviewing of goals and expectations and ensuring we remain open, approachable and empathic. We need our leaders and managers to be emotionally intelligent, so that they are more adept at spotting warning signs and more able to support their teams going forward.
On top of that, at an organisation level, we MUST have the appropriate processes and resources in place to support those experiencing mental health problems.
So, in conclusion;
- keep checking in;
- keep asking “How are you?” and ask a second time if the initial response is “fine”;
- keep looking for signs that things aren’t ok;
- keep making yourself approachable and available and, above all;
- keep talking.
For support with your own mental health, or if you are concerned about someone else, you can visit Mind or contact them on 0300 123 3393 or visit the Mental Health Foundation website for a list of contacts and resources.
#itsokaynottobeokay #MentalHealthatwork #mentalhealthmatters #salespeople #salesleaders