West Virginia University Study Shows Employees Use Eight Strategies To Disclose Workplace Mental Health Problems | New

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) – Employees who suffer from depression are responsible for the decision to disclose their mental health to others at work.

For these employees, a researcher at the University of West Virginia found that they used eight strategies to disclose or cover up this often stigmatized social identity.

Kayla Follmer, assistant professor of management at John Chambers College of Business and Economics, recognized that mental illness can be a concealable identity, just like religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or conditions such as HIV or diabetes: you can’t always see it from the outside.

It made her wonder how people deal with this identity at work.

“Do People Suffering From Depression Disclose Their Disorder At Work? Follmer said in a statement. “Do they tell others and how do they go about it? “

After a series of interviews with 30 employees ranging from a candy display builder to a pharmacy technician to an active-duty member of the Navy, Follmer found that individuals were using eight strategies to manage the identity of depression. At work.

Occultation: Employees simply hid their depression from others at work. This involved actively hiding both information and behavior.

Manufacturing: This is a nondisclosure method where a person shares false information to hide their depression. For example, one participant lied to his supervisor about psychiatric appointments. Instead, they told the boss they needed to see a doctor for migraine issues.

Masking: Another method of nondisclosure, masking involves putting on a face or a fake persona, like smiling when you don’t feel like it.

Signaling: Considered a method of semi-disclosure, reporting means alluding to one’s depression, either passively or actively. With this strategy, individuals did not openly disclose but gave clues to their stigmatized identity. Respondents felt that their natural dispositions were sufficient for their colleagues to understand that they might be depressed. Others said they spoke openly to their colleagues about life challenges, such as divorce or loss.

Limited disclosure: With this limited disclosure strategy, participants told others at work about some aspect of their depression, but did not disclose all of the information. For example, one might disclose difficulties with mental illness but not mention prescription medication or hospitalizations.

Selective Disclosure: This strategy occurs when individuals only talk to certain people at work – not everyone – about their depression.

Transparency: This method of full disclosure occurs when a person is generally open about their depression and tells everyone about it.

Advocacy: Those who are partisans go even further. Not only did they fully disclose their sanity, but they advocated for the awareness of others.

“What’s new about this study is that we were able to show our support for a disclosure continuum,” Follmer said in a statement. “We have this continuum, which had been theorized, but now it is empirically supported. In other words, people don’t just disclose or cover up, but rather there are gradations of those decisions. “

Follmer said those who fall on the nondisclosure side of the continuum fear the stigma of mental illness and face unfair consequences such as dismissal or workplace abuse.

For people who half-disclose information, Follmer believes these employees are dipping their toes in water to test how others may react to their disclosure.

At the end of the continuum is full disclosure, in which participants are open about their diagnosis of depression.

“It’s not necessarily telling every person you meet, it’s more of a general openness that if it happens you’ll talk about it,” Follmer said in a statement. “You are ready to share your experiences and you are not afraid or ashamed. “

In this study, participants were the least likely to use full disclosure strategies, suggesting that many employees are still afraid to fully embrace their mental illness at work.

Follmer also observed the results of his participants’ decisions. Individuals may have changed their strategy over time based on the reactions of their peers and supervisors.

“If they changed jobs, maybe before they were very open, but not now because of a bad experience,” Follmer said in a statement. “Maybe they weren’t open before, but now they have a good climate. So we see this change through jobs and also within jobs. For example, there have been individuals who revealed to their boss and their boss was not at all receptive or supportive. Now they don’t talk about it anymore.

Overall, these results show that employees choose to manage their depression in unique ways, and that there is no better approach. According to Follmer, organizations can benefit from an inclusive climate in which employees can choose to manage their identity as they see fit.

For Follmer, his research is important in the business world.

“In organizational research, we don’t focus on people with disabilities,” Follmer said in a statement. “We have stereotypes of the ideal worker. They will always be very productive and very healthy and we are going to work them to the bone. “

A gap exists, Follmer explained.

“On the one hand, there is the notion of epidemic levels of mental illness and suicide,” Follmer said in a statement. “None of this is reflected in organizational research. I think it’s an injustice that millions of people suffer from mental illness every year and that we don’t do a good job of bringing their experiences to light.”

Remembering that people have emotions is important, Follmer said.

“We’re dealing with human beings and sometimes we’d better just check in and say, ‘How are you doing? »What can I do to support you? If you need anything, I’m here, ”rather than saying your performance is not good. We should first take a more humanistic approach to dealing with the individual rather than always focusing only on their work.


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