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Talking to your staff

Talking to your staff at an early stage is vital. As a manger, you’re not there to be a counsellor or a therapist but you can play an important role in supporting your staff and there’s lots of information and help available.

The MINDFUL EMPLOYER Line Managers’ Resource contains lots more information and guidance about having conversations covering:

  • Who starts the conversation?

  • Issues to talk about

  • Responding to distress

  • Recognising when professional help is needed

  • Keeping in touch when someone is off sick

  • Planning the return to work

 Take a look at our film about having conversations at work, Let's Talk.


  • Do have a conversation in a private space – maybe outside the office, in a café or somewhere where the employee feels comfortable and conversations can’t be overheard.

  • Don't attempt to start a conversation in front of everyone else.

  • Do make sure there are no interruptions. Switch your mobile phone off.

  • Don't initiate a conversation if you've got another appointment looming.

  • Do be focused. You only need information that will help you achieve the goal of supporting your employee.

  • Don't attempt to diagnose. Remember you're not a doctor or a counsellor.

  • Do ask open, non-controlling questions. For example, "I was wondering how you were doing?"

  • Don't ask questions that could create pressure like "What’s wrong with you, then?" or "Are you stressed or something?

  • Do use neutral language. For example, "How are doing today?"

  • Don't use medical language linked to illnesses like "You seem depressed" unless the employee uses it.

  • Do always allow the person time to answer.

  • Don't push for an answer. Be patient. And don't rush in with another question without listening to the answer you've been given.

  • Do try and put yourself in the other person's position and see things from their perspective.

  • Don't tell the person what to do.

  • Make arrangements for a follow up meeting to review the situation.

  • Don't leave things up in the air.

(Adapted from ‘It's Good to Talk’ Shaw Trust –


Making Work Work

Making Work Work is designed to enable and support discussion about how stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions affects someone at work. It is intended to aid communication, understanding and support – it’s a document to help make work work. It is a living document to be reviewed regularly by both the employee and manager and amended as appropriate (e.g. when there is a change of manager or role). It can be used as a short term or long term measure.


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