In this fast-paced and demanding world, where work and personal lives often intertwine, ensuring the well-being of your workforce is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity. As the gatekeepers of the organization's most valuable asset – its people – managers are uniquely positioned to make a profound impact on the mental health of your employees.
By creating a supportive and empathetic environment, you have the power to enhance productivity, retention, and, ultimately, the success of your organization as a whole. But where do you start? How can you unravel mental health complexities and implement effective strategies to support your employees? Sometimes it is difficult to break the ice and approach a person that needs help.
Thankfully, with the growing understanding of mental health issues, new approaches are emerging to provide effective support and care. One such innovative technique is the ALEC method.
Image courtesy of Beverly Beuermann-King
The ALEC Method: What Is It and How Can It Support Mental Health?
ALEC stands for ‘Ask,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Encourage,’ and ‘Check-in.’
It is a simple way of being able to formulate your thoughts to approach a conversation to help a person. Sometimes employees don’t share if they are going through a difficult situation, and their managers or colleagues are the ones that notice that something is wrong. However, sometimes they don’t know how to approach this situation.
This model will help you define the right strategies to find the proper support and take action when you don’t know how to handle these situations.
‘A’ stands for Ask
If a manager is concerned that maybe an employee or colleague is dealing with something, one part of that ‘Ask’ is identifying what they have noticed. Acknowledging that there’s something different in their behaviour or attitude is the first step.
It could be how they speak because that is usually the first thing that happens. Sometimes something twigs for us that says something is just not quite right. Here is when managers need to address that and might want to say: “Hey, you haven't seemed like yourself lately. You haven't been joking around like you normally do. What's been going on?”
We want to avoid “How are you?” because when we ask that it is far too easy to say “Fine,” and that can mean anything like “I don't want to talk about it right now, fine.” So we want to ask questions that open up the conversation.
‘L’ stands for Listening
Listening to not only what the person says, but what they do not say. As managers, we need to ask ourselves what is the emotion behind what they are saying. Sometimes, somebody says “Fine,” but everything about their body language says everything but “Fine.” So we want to listen and really hear what they say and how they say it.
Some questions we can ask are: "How have they dealt with this before?", "How long have they been feeling this way?", "What has been really helpful?", "What's not been helpful?". We want to clarify, as we're listening, all the information we're receiving.
‘E’ stands for Encouraging
Managers need to encourage the people who need help to take some sort of action. This means encouraging them to talk to their doctor, HR, or EAP (Employee Assistance Program), which is confidential. They could also reach out to family members or friends, or a spiritual advisor, as a way to make the first step into addressing the issue.
It is also essential to let them know that they are not alone in this situation. This doesn’t mean that you, as manager or colleague, will act as their psychologist or therapist, but rather help them take the necessary action to solve the problem. It is not about you knowing all the details, but it is about helping them take a step forward.
‘C’ stands for Check-In
Often, managers think this is a one-and-done conversation. They are afraid to check in and ask how the employee is feeling because they might look nosey or inappropriate. Although, it doesn't have to be a conversation around the issue again.
Managers can just ask, “Hey, I know you had a doctor’s appointment; how did that go?” You don’t need to learn all the details, but the person will know you are there for them. Be sure to tell them, “Is there anything else I can do to support you?”. Checking in and keeping that conversation going is fundamental.
The ALEC method aims to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health conditions by increasing awareness and promoting empathy. This encourages individuals to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination.
When managers are alert, they can identify issues early, intervene and provide support promptly, preventing escalation and improving outcomes. If you want to learn more about the ALEC method and how to support your employees' mental health, I invite you to watch this webinar.
About the Author
For 20+ years, Beverly has used her S-O-S Principle with teams who want to control their reactions to stress, build resiliency against life’s challenges and live fulfilling lives. Beverly works with teams and leaders to shift from stressed out to resilient, enabling them to be more engaged, productive and healthy.
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