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Worried about work colleague with mental health issues.

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vbforvendetta

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Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
12
I work in a Deli and I'm manager of the Bakery department there. I have four staff under me, one of whom joined mid-way through last year. He's a great worker, eager to please, punctual and has had few sick days off. However, he seems to have super happy side to him where he bounds around like a bull in a china shop or he's the complete opposite and mopes around and had no drive. He also snaps very easy, appears very irritable, he always thinks people are talking about him all the time, needs constant approval and praise but still thinks he's never good enough.
There are two rooms in the bakery so he works in one with another member of staff, while I work in the other room with the other two. He talks to the female member of staff he works with and today (not for the first time) she was in tears after he snapped at her and shouted. The things she told me he's told her include; having 'demonic thoughts'( as he put it), self harming, and wanting to cause a scene/ trouble etc. He's also confessed before to her that he's already on medication, has taken drugs, regularly smokes weed, and has trouble with authority. His problems seem to stem from him witnessing his fathers suicide when he was little. Unfortunately he's not told me any of this, only this member of staff, so I cannot try to talk to him about it. I'm well known by my staff as being extremely easy to talk to, and any talks we've had (especially when it's kicked off) I've managed to diffuse but it only seems temporary until the next time.
I'm not only concerned about his health, but the female member of staff is actually scared when he snaps and has told me she may have to leave. I feel it's got to the point where I can no longer do anything myself and will have to alert my superiors, I've not mentioned it thus far as I've always tried to sort it out myself. My main concern is how he will take it, and also the atmosphere when he obviously realises the member of staff he works with must have raised concerns about him.
Has anyone any ideas on what I should do? I want a happy working environment for my staff, including him as he's an asset 99% of the time, but I can't have other staff being scared due to his behaviour.
I apologise for the length of this post but I'm clueless on what to do next.
Thankyou for reading this.
 
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J

jaxie40

Guest
Hey vbforvendetta, and well done for wanting to help a workmate out. It's a difficult one to advise on because you're in charge of him, but I personally wouldn't know how to broach the subject with him in case he did kick off. Have you got an occupational therapist at your workplace who could perhaps talk to him? It sounds like he's dealt with some traumatic stuff in his life, but if he has a mental illness, smoking weed is only going to exacerbate the problem. Let us know how things go :hug:
 
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vbforvendetta

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Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
12
Hi Jaxie,
No, there's no Occupational Therapist, it's a small family run business so none of the fancy stuff! He wasn't in today, called in sick. I feel like I have a responsibility to inform my employer that one of their staff has a mental illness, although I'd feel like I was telling on him, I think I could get in trouble if I said nothing in case something happened. It's hard because when he's ok he's a great guy, we joke and talk about movies and all that sort of thing, I'm well aware he's got problems and I want him to know I want to help him, I'm just worried he might think he doesn't need help and it'll all blow up. I've had problem staff in one way or another over the years, but never a situation like this. He knows he can talk to me, we've had chats but I have to play ignorant because as far as he knows I don't know all this stuff about him, which makes it harder. If he poured his heart out to me I could help him, I know I can, but I need him to make the first move. He's worth the work, and I suppose if I have to take a fall and be the bad guy in order to try and get him help I'll just have to hope in time he'll realise I'm trying to help.
In the meantime, I feel I HAVE to tell my employer in confidence that I'm concerned about him. I'll ask him not to take any action, but let me work on it, but then at least they're aware of it.
Thanks for your reply Jaxie.
One last thing, do you know if people with the symptoms I've explained tend to exaggerate or lie a bit? I just wondered if he might be fantasising a little too, maybe?
Thankyou.
 
piglet

piglet

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Sep 9, 2010
Messages
4,356
Location
Merseyside
Hiya hun and welcome to the forum :)

This is a difficult situation and I'm afraid I can only give you advice from being on the other side. I have had a few jobs now where staff have had to have a word with me, some went well and other did not.

The ones where I reacted badly where when my employer called me to the office, it was like an alarm bell going off saying "you are in trouble, you are going to get fired!" which made me very nervous. I was basically sat down and told that I was unreliable and had to pull myself together. I was extremely upset each time that happened and quite the job.

The ones that went ok where a lot more casual. One I worked closely with the manager and he had noticed stuff and the other it was my supervisor and the manager who spoke to me. The one with just my manager I was working in retail and my behaviour was causing me to loose sales. My manager decided to talk to me just after something had gone wrong, not sure if it was because he had too or he picked a time when I couldn't say nothing was wrong. He just asked me if I was ok and was there anything I wanted to talk about, he was really friendly during the whole conversation. He asked if I wanted some time off to sort things out and that I had his support whatever I decided to do.

The other job things were going really bad, I was getting my work done and doing good numbers but my outbursts where a problem. My supervisor spoke to me during lunch break and same again, it was really friendly and just a chat. She mentioned that I had seemed pretty stressed recently and that if I needed an ear she was there. I also had pretty fresh SH scares and she asked if I needed a dressing or anything to protect them. I'm guessing she had planned it because we had to go to the managers office to get the first aid kit. The manager was really nice and calm too and asked if everything was ok. I think because it was just the three of us away from anyone else and they obviously knew what was going on it made me feel a bit more secure about talking to them. I came to the decision that it would be better if I left and the manager said that they would be happy to take me back when things are better.

I guess in a really long winded way I am saying keep things calm and relaxed, don't make it sound like a telling off or he will most likely feel threatened. What worked with me was them catching me when it was obvious I was down, I'm guessing they could just tell that I needed to get stuff off my chest. Start off with a friendly chat and then move on to the issue rather than leading with it.

I think with your boss telling them would be a good idea but say to let you handle it. Tell them that if things get worse you will tell them but at the moment you feel you have a good relationship with him and he might respond better to just you.

hope this helps.
 
J

jaxie40

Guest
Hey vbforvendetta. It could be that your colleague has delusions and believes what he's saying, that's not uncommon with a lot of mental illnesses.

As for speaking to your boss, I would read piglet's advice seeing as she's someone who knows first hand about it. Let us know how things go, and feel free to ask anything else :grouphug:
 
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vbforvendetta

Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
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Thankyou again Jaxie, and thanks Piglet for your advise. Whenever I talk to my colleague I'm always calm and as relaxed as I can be, I think that's how I usually manage to calm him down, and then he's really apologetic and feels bad to which I always reply 'it's not just you but you need to handle your reaction better' or words to that effect. I feel if I can make him realise the world's not against him I might get somewhere. I've always had the approach of talking and not shouting to staff I'm responsible for to sort things out and I'll stand by that course of action any day of the week. People seem to lose the ability to shout if you don't shout back, so I always go with that.
I don't want it to seem like he's always kicking off, it's only happened about 5 or 6 times within about 6 months but he tends to be a bit off and snappy etc. alot, and silly things will set him off. Tuesdays flare up had brewed all morning but he snapped over someone sweeping the floor! He realises after how silly it was but it's too late then. I would say his biggest problem is his paranoia, that seems the main cause of everything; 'people talking about me, someone looked at me funny, someone's criticized something I've done, I don't think so and so likes me' etc. He seems to have more of a problem with my colleague who works with him, I think he's become too comfortable around her and that's why he tells her all the stuff he does. I suppose it's like at some time we've hated our parents for something or other, but deep down we don't mean it and feel bad after? It's not possible to split them up though because of the jobs each person is there to do, otherwise it'd be better because he's not a problem around me. He's come a long way in 6 months, and I make sure I comment on things he's done, praise when necessary, make him feel part of what we do, explain why we do things etc. And if I have to tell him to alter the way he does something I explain why, not just nag. I'm pretty lenient with my staff in the understanding they know where I draw the line. I encourage him to think for himself as well, and he's really doing well at that and I've told him so.
So, Piglet, I'd like to think you think I'm handling it right? I hope so. I really appreciate your input.
Thanks again guys, truly.
Cheers
VB.
 
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jaxie40

Guest
I just hope we've been of some use, hun. You're in a difficult position, one I wouldn't especially like to be in! Personally, I think you sound like a great person for anyone to have in charge of them. :flowers:
 
piglet

piglet

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hiya hun, yes I do think you are handling it well :)

Going from what you said I would think the best time to have a word with him would be after he has snapped and is really apologetic, he might be a bit more open and willing to talk.
 
V

vbforvendetta

Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
12
Thanks again Jaxie and Piglet. He was in today and much better, but now the other colleague will only speak to him when she really has to so that's no help at all. He was fine though, I think he knows he really upset her so he's hoping she'll forgive him soon enough. Doesn't help me out though, I want to to try and help him but now that's just another thing I've got to worry about. Why are people so selfish? I've got other things of my own that are bothering me at work and that really doesn't help at all.
Anyway, we work early tonight and I'll be on my own with him for a couple of hours so I'm hoping the opportunity will arise that we can have a chat, we've had chats then before so I think it'll be a good chance to. I wanna just say to him 'tell me everything from the beginning about you, help me understand why you have these things that make you unhappy'. I don't know if that's the right approach but I can't do anything if I don't know about it from him, like I said I only know because of my colleague telling me.
So, we'll see if it happens. It's awkward, if he's happy enough at the moment I sort of feel like not saying anything in case he gets worked up, but I think I can handle it the right way, I hope.
Thanks again,
VB.
 
V

vbforvendetta

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Hey guys,
Managed to talk to my colleague this morning, managed to get him to open up to me. He tells me he is a diagnosed manic depressive and that he takes about 6 meds daily for it which is why he has the mood swings, ups and downs. He did indeed see his dad kill himself in front of him. And he does self harm when he's down. Have to say it took all I had to to not cry when he told me that. He said he felt better once he'd told me, and so do I now that I don't have to pretend to be unaware of it. I told him to talk to me whenever he wants, about whatever he wants, as a boss or a friend. I told him that there's not alot I can do to help, but hope that knowing he has my support will at least make him feel a bit better about it. I praised him for his work and told him that even when he's down it rarely effects his work. We talked about hopefully resolving the situation with my other colleague, and he admitted he knows it was his fault. He's in quite a good mood at the mo, and I'm glad our chat didn't affect it. I do fell better, I hope the other problem can be sorted out too which is more down to them, but obviously I'll have to step in if it doesn't.
One thing though, he asked me not to tell anyone else about his illness, am I obliged to inform my employer though? I don't want to now as he asked me not to and I'd really feel bad if I did.
Thanks again for your help and support.
VB
 
piglet

piglet

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Hiya hun, so glad that your talk went well :)

I think something that might help would be to read up on Bipolar(manic depression) to get a good understanding of what the condition is. Doing that might help with recognising when he is starting to get high or low and when potential problems could arise. There is a Bipolar section on here :)

With regards to telling your boss, there is no legal obligation to do so. It is only really recommended if there is the potential for it interfering with his job in some way. If an employer knows that the employee is ill and then tries to fire them based on that, the employee is protected by The Disability Discrimination Act, but ultimately it is their choice.
 
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vbforvendetta

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Mar 21, 2012
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Thankyou Piglet, I'll read up on that definitely! I want to help any way I can. Pleased that I don't have to say, I think I will talk to the other colleague about it, I want her to know I'm doing my best. I hope together we can help him, I really do. My employers are pretty good, they are not ones to sack people for things like that. We do have a guy in another department with alot of problems, mainly he's a bit of a loose cannon, problems from a young age etc. and they've never given up on him so I think my colleague is in safe hands.
Thankyou again, sincerely.
VB
 
J

jaxie40

Guest
I'm so glad you managed to talk to your colleague, and that he was receptive. People with mental health issues often feel misunderstood and stigmatised, so go through their stuff alone. :hug:
 
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vbforvendetta

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All kicked off again today. Colleague was ignoring him all day again, he did his best but finally he snapped. Big argument, and I really didn't know what to do. This is really draining me now, and I don't know what to do. I think my only course of action is to go to my superiors about it. I'm lost :(
 
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vbforvendetta

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Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
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Actually an improvement today, my manager phoned me yesterday evening as my other colleague had phoned him about what happened. Felt a bit better to just talk about it with him. My colleague wasn't too bad when he came in, he's mad at himself because he knows it was his fault, but knew it'd be hard when my other colleague turned up in the morning. I think she was going to carry on ignoring him but my manager had words with her and told her it'd only end badly again and after that it improved, to the point where they were actually chatting through the morning a little. My employer came in to speak to me too, he's being good about it really, they want to sort it out so we can all be back to normal again, so they will speak to my colleague very soon to get to the root of the problem. We're going to try a bit of a rotation so they're not working together every single day, they both seem happy with this, and I think it might not be a bad idea anyway. He was a little quiet, I know he thought he'd get sacked, which I've assured him he will not, and he knows he'll get a slap on the wrist, but I told him it won't be a shouting match, they'll just go over the problems and try to fix them.
I feel better about it today, I told my colleague I'd been reading up on his condition so I can understand him and support him, and he said no one had done that before and he seemed quite pleased I was doing it. I hope in a month or two we can forget it ever happened and hopefully be better all round.
Thanks again folks,
VB.
 
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