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Blue @ Work

Supporting your employees' emotional health

Foster a favorable environment for effective communication

This article was last updated June 16, 2023.

Whether your workplace is a physical office or completely remote, maintaining a positive work environment is important to you as an HR professional. Regardless of your efforts to make every employee feel valued and cultivate a good workplace culture, your employees will occasionally face frustrating and stressful situations.

For some employees, it may be difficult to deal with these situations and they may become emotional due to stress. It can be even harder when mental health comes into play. If even one employee is struggling with depression, stress or anxiety, it can impact your company's culture and lead to poor engagement and higher turnover.

We need to talk about emotional employees; who they are, how to hold constructive conversations with them and what resources you can provide to help them handle their emotions in the workplace.

That's why we've developed a complete guide to help you support emotional employees in your workplace.

The link between mental and emotional health

While there are differences between mental and emotional health External Site, they are intricately linked and any impacts to one — whether positive or negative — can severely impact the other. We break down the major challenges your employees could be facing and the long-term emotional impacts:

Depression and anxiety.

Johns Hopkins External Site found that 42 percent of employees struggle, at some point, with anxiety or depression caused by work, relationship problems, poor physical health and financial worries. When depression and anxiety Opens in a new window hit, it can make dealing with work pressures more challenging and impact your employees' emotional health.

Chronic stress.

Work is a major source of stress for American employees with 62 percent of workers External Site reporting they experience high levels of stress at work on a regular basis. Long term, chronic stress can not only lead to health issues like heart attacks and high blood pressure, but can have severe emotional impacts, such as rage and depression. According to a Gallup report External Site, 29 percent of workers have yelled at a coworker and one in four employees have cried due to the stress they experience at work.

Financial challenges.

Your employees' financial stress is not just putting a strain on their wallets — it's impacting your bottom line, too. Salary Finance reports External Site that the financial stress employees experience costs employers an estimated 13 to 18 percent of annual salary costs. Consider incorporating a financial wellness program into your workplace if you don't already have one.

Round out your well-being program

Wellmark's well-being consultants can help you gain a better understanding of your employees' needs and guide you to products that help your workplace thrive. Get started by filling out Wellmark's well-being survey.

Signs of an emotional employee

Let’s paint the picture of what an emotional employee could look like.

Your employee, Todd, has been in his current role for several years. He is eager for a promotion, but feels he is stuck, frustrated and bored with the work and people he's with every day. Todd becomes irritable toward his stakeholders and coworkers — often unknowingly. You and other employees know that deep down that Todd is a great person, but he has developed a pattern of bringing negativity to every situation at work and your employees are becoming emotionally drained.

Here are a few additional examples of an emotional employee:

  • Constantly checking in
  • Always asking if they did their work correctly
  • Inability to make a move without someone telling them what to do
  • Continually bothering or questioning co-workers to complete a task
  • Repeated reviews on instructions or objectives
  • Sounding unsure of themselves
  • Interrupting managers with small inquiries
  • External or internal stakeholders mentioning they struggle working with the employee

How can you hold constructive conversations with an emotional employee?

Let’s use Todd’s situation as an example. If you’ve been receiving multiple inquiries about employees feeling emotionally drained, frustrated, or unsure of how to support Todd, it’s time to have a constructive conversation. There are several companies who would sweep this issue under the rug, and others who would completely isolate Todd, but neither of these options are the answer.

It’s no simple task to hold a difficult, constructive conversation with an emotional employee but these conversations are essential in fostering a healthy workplace environment. Here is how you can hold a constructive conversation with an emotional employee.

  1. Plan out the conversation.

    Due to the sensitive nature of the conversation, be sure to prepare ahead of time for your meeting with the employee. Create an outline of the conversation or use our conversation guide Opens in a new window to help you figure out what you are going to say and what you need to cover. Also consider how the other person might react and be prepared to respond in a calm and professional manner.
  2. Be direct.

    Get to the point as quickly as you can. Try to avoid the sandwich method External Site, or an abundance of compliments before getting to the real conversation.
  3. Listen and show empathy.

    Before you go into the conversation with the employee, put yourself in their shoes — how would you feel if you were receiving the same feedback? Don’t forget, there is strength in emotion. If an employee is visibly upset, apologetic and attentive, they care!
  4. Invite questions.

    Questions from the employee can allow for you to make clarifications. Additionally, if there are none, ask them questions to make sure everyone is on the same page. Do a round of follow up questions to ensure the conversation was fully understood.
  5. Create an action plan.

    Think of specific examples or areas where they can improve. Be ready to provide resources, training or suggestions to help them make progress and change.

Continue to have regular check-ins and progress updates with the employee you’ve conversed with.

What can you do to support and be an ally for emotional employees?

Every employee’s emotional situation is different. And, since most of your employees are spending more than 40 hours per week at work, they expect a thing or two from their employer — especially when it comes to their mental and emotional health. Consider these support methods for supporting emotional employees:

Need extra support? Our team of experts are here to help.

At Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we know your business and have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in house. Our team of employer health and well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your employee population.

Every step of the way, our team can be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because one-size doesn’t fit all.

If you are interested in learning more, contact your authorized Wellmark account representative or email us any time at Send Email.