Third of British staff uncomfortable talking to their boss about stress

Millions of workers would “dread” discussing their mental wellbeing with their boss for fear of being judged, a study found.

According to data commissioned by a recruitment agency, almost one third of UK employees would not feel comfortable talking to their manager about mental health problems, with one fifth fearing being ostracised and another 36 per cent thinking confiding in their boss would hamper their career.

Worryingly, 71 per cent of participants still considered mental health to be a taboo subject in the workplace, and four in 10 believe they are better off suffering in silence. 61 per cent believe there is a “pull yourself together and get over it” attitude towards mental health in Britain’s workplace.

63 per cent of UK workers have suffered with mental health problems, but just one in five have spoken to their boss about them. Of those who have spoken out, 54 per cent felt supported after the chat. However, 14 per cent said they felt more anxious following the conversation, and 44 per cent believe their career stalled as a direct result of it.

Carried out by, the study found that 27 per cent of the 1000 surveyed have left a job due to it having a negative impact on their mental health, with a further 7 in 10 having considered this.

54 per cent think their colleagues would view them differently, 26 per cent fear they’d be labelled ‘weird’ and 16 per cent think they would even be laughed. 68 per cent think employers should do more to improve the understanding of mental health in the workplace.

Sarah Kirk, global diversity & inclusion director, said: “Businesses need to create a culture of trust, openness, support and acceptance by providing clear support, advice and signposting. A good place to start is to support line managers with training and workshops on how to take care of themselves, but also spot signs of mental ill-health within their own teams.”

A separate study conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation revealed that a quarter of millennials and almost one in five baby boomers believe they compromise their health to do their job.

“In recent years, huge steps have been taken to improve mental health awareness across society, including in the workplace,” said Jaan Madan, workplace lead at Mental Health First Aid England. “However, today’s research shows that more needs to be done to translate this awareness into action… Coping with stress in the workplace starts with being able to have a conversation with your manager, and in a mentally healthy organisation everyone should feel comfortable talking about stress.”

Research from the CIPD showed that issues with workload were the top cause of long-term stress at work, followed by management style. The research revealed that mental ill-health was now the main cause of long-term absence in more than a fifth of UK organisations (22 per cent) and that stress-related absence had increased over the last year in more than a third of businesses.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said training and guidance on engaging with employees on mental wellbeing was crucial for line managers. “Our research finds that organisations with managers who are able to effectively promote good mental health are less likely to have seen an increase in reported common mental health conditions, which shows how crucial that capability is,” she said.

The silver lining is that 57 per cent of those polled admit that things have improved, and believe our understanding of mental health is better now than it was as recently as five years ago.

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