Workplace Leaders and Depression
Researchers rank depression and anxiety among workers as two of the most destructive
workplace problems faced by employers. Research indicates that most workers suffering
from clinical depression remain in the workforce each day functioning at a reduced
capacity. Unfortunately, work environments often worsen depression in workers.
It is not the responsibility of workplace leaders to diagnose clinical depression or to
become therapists for troubled workers. Leave that to mental health workers outside the
workplace. However, what leaders can do is construct work environments that lessen the
destructive impact of depression on worker efficiency through some very specific
leadership tactics that uniquely enhance efficiency of these workers.
Depressed clients in my private practice told me depression was like a shadowy cloud
hovering over them with constant feelings of impending doom. Things were meaningless;
nothing seemed to really matter. Intense feelings of sadness and unhappiness stayed with
them always. They went through the motions of working each day, returning home at
night in a foggy state. What makes this even more perplexing is that workers infrequently
recognized this as depression, typically feeling, for some vague reason, they were “bad”
persons or that others are “making” them depressed. These feelings can lead to observable
Here are a few questions a leader can ask about observable performance behaviors that
may suggest depression.
1. Has the worker’s behavior changed from generally positive
to negative? Does the worker complain about lack of support
to do the job? Depressed individuals often “feel alone” and
unsupported, and tend to focus negative feelings on something
external. Self-isolation is common.
2. Has the worker’s energy level dropped from full of energy
to withdrawal from others and to producing less? Does the
worker show a diminished interest in work? Work productivity