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Support the Mental Health of Your Frontline Managers

sharingEvery now and then, a friend of mine who manages contact center operations shares the reasons he has had a long day. It almost always has to do with a personnel crisis.

One day, it was because they had suspected that a frontline contact center agent had showed up intoxicated. There was a carefully documented procedure in place that would lead up to the agent either agreeing to take a drug test or agreeing to part ways with the company.

Another day, it was because an agent had soiled himself at his desk, again, and had refused to admit it, again. The managers had a responsibility to create a safe environment for those around the agent, while also trying to find the best way to find help for this agent and complying with labor laws.

He had dealt with worse, including violence in the workplace. My friend would state what happened with a matter-of-fact sigh, but I knew my friend well. That on-the-surface stoicism masked the real toil it took on him and his team.

We may ruefully chuckle and say, “Never a dull moment,” but how can we possibly focus on a monthly report or workforce management task when we’re remembering the sobs of a worker struggling with addiction who is pleading for his job?

The contact center industry is dynamic and requires a high degree of on-your-feet thinking for contact center managers. Those managers who find success in this industry are, by their nature, people who roll with the punches and still get their reports in on time. However, these people are human, as well, and such incidents must inevitably take their toll on both the managers and the other team members affected by the incident.

Even if the effect of handling such incidents is not visible at the workplace, it is still part of the equation of the overall health of your workplace. Finding ways to best support the humans who make up your management team is not just the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense in the long run. It is much easier to maintain your valuable human assets than it is to find or develop new ones.

Here are some suggestions to consider to augment your mental and emotional health support offerings for managers:

Regularly Have Mental Health Consultants

Consider contracting with mental health professionals who have workplace experience, so they can provide insight on certain situations and regular training on issues that may arise.

Keep an Open Door Policy for Managers, and Encourage Productive Venting

Managers like to be problem solvers, and may need some encouragement to open up about how such incidents may affect them. So even if they say they’re “fine”, check in more than once on them and remind them that if feelings arise, you are always available to lend an ear.

Provide Extra Time Off

We always try to encourage our dedicated team members to utilize their vacation time, but perhaps we should go a step further and create a special PTO category. Allow space in your budget for a day off that does not count against one’s vacation time for the manager or team member to use after a crisis subsides. If your manager is the type who never wants to seem in need of support, you can package the day off as a Kudos reward for a job well done.

Model Good Mental Health Self-Care

Take time off, discuss how issues may affect you, and ask for advice. The only way managers will get the signal that they should take of themselves is if the higher ups do the same.

The contact center industry is a human endeavor, and we must respect that any crisis takes something out of our teams. Please remember to support your workforce, and they will maintain their resilience and show up to handle what’s needed.