I can't speak for the thousands of industries out there, but I can tell you what it is like to work in the recruitment industry with depression. It isn't perfect. Recruiting is a fantastic platform for professionals, graduates, etc. To develop skills, understand how companies run, grow as individuals, and boost the company's insight. It is not without challenges, especially during these past pandemic years. Recruiting can be driven by high-pressure environments, competitiveness, unrealistic KPI targets, monthly, quarterly, and yearly numbers, highs of hires, and lows of the pipelines. There can't be many more industries in life that follow such a roller coaster path from day to day.
Being vulnerable and honest, I suffer from depression, and I have seen what depression does to others, and some of my beautiful colleagues have committed suicide. Truth hurts and is a truth we need to address. Trust is earned, and instead, in this industry, we tend to avoid such topics, mainly because we don't have the right tools or understanding of how to address, support, and guide mental health. Some may say, "we have services," which is helpful and covers what is hard to comprehend as non-medical professionals, which we also have to consider and NOT expect leaders to understand the ins and outs of mental health.
This topic is much more profound. There is no pointing the finger at anyone, but more of what we need to address head-on as an industry. I have close, beautiful colleagues who slowly become silent, including myself. The further we slip away from our reality, having to pretend that we have to put on some frontage to cover how we are feeling and feel not heard, which we all can relate to. We tend to "suck it up" and accept what is usually typically said when we talk about our metrics, OR "it's not about numbers," or "next month will be successful," how often have we heard that?
Regarding recruiting, we are viewed as "sales" professionals; however, I can't buy it. From my point of view, recruiting is more than smile and dial; prospects know it, but do we? My definition of recruiting / sourcing is about discovery, human connection, coaching, mentoring, match-maker, and genuinely investing in someone who could elevate the company's success. Now, some may disagree, and that is ok with me. I am not here to debate the ins and outs of our industry. We are all built differently and contribute all our skills to recruiting in this forever-changing economy.
We all have experienced shifts in recruiting. We have to acknowledge that recruiting becomes reactive when we grow. It can be very stressful, which then causes issues like anxiety, stress disorders, depression, and other crippling mental illnesses; in most cases, we need to discuss this behavior in real-time. We must come together, have honest conversations about possible solutions, and develop healthier habits. Even though, as leaders, we want to help, we want to make our efforts to be authentic. Still, we need to be better equipped.
I wanted to share steps that could help with this growing issue and how we, as colleagues, leaders, etc., can help make us better friends, colleagues, leaders, and much more:
As professionals, we should continually educate ourselves; most of the shame attached to mental health is because of a lack of understanding or the fear of saying the wrong thing. Educating ourselves about mental health should always be number one, as how to manage and, most notably, how to identify indicators. As recruiters/sourcers, there are some things we can do if we notice an individual struggling: panic attacks, mood shifts, stress, or anxiety. We are not physiologists or therapists, for sure; however, when we educate ourselves about mental health, we can identify symptoms and illnesses to help and possibly save a life.
Being considerate, we strive to demonstrate consideration and showing empathy consistently.
If you come across a colleague dealing with mental health issues, listen, work with them on solutions, and provide them space with support. Recruiting can look at how we should address the stress that comes with the job. When we see someone struggling, we cannot send that individual into stressful environments as that would add more to their problems. Instead, we need to assign them roles and responsibilities that they will be able to do efficiently without feeling pressured – I know this may not make sense for some, and I am cool with that. Take the time and invest in your colleagues or those you manage to understand what they might be going through in their professional/personal lives. Their situations may be weighing heavily on their mind. We can't ignore, nor can we not assume someone's life, and we can't expect them to spill it out. We have to build trust, understand how to address these human behaviors, and provide a safe space for trust and understanding.
Don't be judgmental. We don't want to accept that we do judge; it's a human trait whether we like it or not; of course, we want to believe that we don't judge, and one that is hard to change. How would you react to finding out if a colleague is feeling mentally unwell? Will you ignore or let them go due to poor performance without investigating why? If you did find out about an employee suffering from mental health problems, would you question why they are a part of recruiting?
Please take into consideration that these thoughts are a result of our judgments/biases and typical stereotypes. I encourage us all to STOP judging someone on their abilities to perform tasks simply because they might be dealing with mental health issues. After all,
We hired them for a reason, and we need to invest in everyone's success and meet them where they are instead of comparing or playing favorites. I want us to stop judging and undermining the value of talent in our teams and industry.
We must have more open discussions with our employees and encourage them to speak up. I know and understand that we are recruiters/sourcers and don't have the "training" as therapists; I get it. However, we unnecessarily create particular behavior to achieve our goals, which adds to our mental health. With our new world of distributed workforces, we need to look out for one another and encourage a conversation to listen, not to solve, but to listen to and be there for that colleague. A trusted relationship can help solve many issues and establish a meaningful relationship. We can have some answers; in some cases, it may surprise you how much we have in common.
Keep in mind that it's our job to counsel your colleague/employees about their issues, but I suggest listening to their challenges by showing them we genuinely care. We aren't therapists, so please never give unsolicited advice when someone opens up. Just be there, and be patient with them. As such, they will gain trust and open up to you. This knowledge will also enable us to know them better and help out.
Most importantly, we need to learn about preventive methods. There are many resources and training to invest in our teams rather than processes. Educating yourself about mental health issues and how to address them could help an individual and yourself. Don't forget; this article is for all of us. You can help by offering solutions and truly identifying where they thrive and shine. We talk about having a work-life balance for the employees to feel relieved and stress-free. Let's back this up by always encouraging time off. We work hard and tend to put other needs first; we need to change this. I always tell my team, "if you are feeling low, others will also feel low; it can be infectious, so take time for YOU, and come back refreshed and energetic."
Establish a connection between performance and resting. If you know me, I love inspirational and servant leadership techniques. My book, my favorite book, would be "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. Discussing the importance of following healthy habits like sleeping well, eating healthy, and exercising with colleagues could have a positive outcome.
There is a lot of pressure for a leader to ensure their team's mental health. As an entire team, we always need to extend help when it's been heard and needed. The "key" communication is the best help you can offer your teams, colleagues, etc. If there is a concern, share the resources available within your company or in general.
Showing compassion and empathy may not be everyone's comfort zone, but I beg the differ; building trust isn't just getting someone to perform and succeed. It's building trust so you can have more meaningful conversations to address any challenges and make the individual's confidence.
Remember that we are just recruiters/sourcers, not mental health professionals, so don't become their therapists. However, advising colleagues to seek therapy to help resolve their problems is always appropriate. You can also use helpful resources provided by various non-governmental organizations.
If you or know anyone who is dealing with depression or stress and needs to talk. Please, help is available. You can speak with someone by dialing 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.