Employee Well-Being

Supporting the Mental Health of New Managers

Becoming a manager for the first time is an enriching experience—but it can lead to added stress. Here’s how you can support these first-time leaders.

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The Calm Team

4 min read

Becoming a manager for the first time can be a stressful experience. The role of manager comes with all-new responsibilities and a range of potential new stressors. And it’s been especially challenging for those who became managers over the past two years, due to the added weight of pandemic uncertainty and remote working.

That’s why it’s vital that your new managers get the support they need to thrive—and, by extension, to help the people they manage thrive.

Managers have a tremendous impact on their reports. They are one of the key makers or breakers of employee happiness and contribute directly to employee attrition and productivity. A happy manager who feels supported, happy, and confident in their role is more likely to be a positive influence on their reports.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the key challenges new managers face, along with five things you can do to help support them in their roles.

The simple truth: managing people for the first time is tough

New managers have a tightrope to walk. If they’ve just joined the company, they’ll need to get to know people while still settling in themselves—which can lead to the weird dichotomy of being both more senior and newer. Or, if they’ve been promoted from within, they need to make the transition from being a colleague to a supervisor—which means maintaining good relationships while clearly establishing themselves as authority figures.

And instead of just being responsible for their own work and conduct, they’re accountable for others too. Which means they need to manage their own workloads while handling the additional responsibilities of pastoral care and development for those they manage.

A managerial role also comes with the task of managing internal stakeholders and navigating a field of office politics. Even the flattest of companies will have some semblance of a leadership structure to go through—and new managers need to learn how to navigate this, quick, as they’re expected to act as the main link between employees and management.

How to support new managers in their new role

Check in regularly to see how they’re holding up and if they need any help

As much as possible, keep lines of communication open so that they have someone to turn to if they need assistance. It’s also important that they know explicitly that they won’t be looked down on for asking for help if they need it, as they might be concerned about being seen as lacking.

If you have the resources, consider also giving your new managers people management training, to equip them to deal effectively with the pressures of the job.

Encourage them to build their resilience

Mental resilience is a must-have for everyone, but it’s particularly important for managers. There are many ways to build resilience, but generally it relies on finding stabilizers that will help you ride out the highs and lows of a day.

Mindfulness and meditation are particularly useful for building resilience. Both can help managers tap into their own emotions and become more self-aware—which can help them moderate their reactions and notice potential stressors before they take a toll.

(Calm is great for building resilience. You can try it out for yourself here.)

Advocate for self-care

Managers are tasked with managing the happiness and work-related mental health of their reports—but in doing so, they may forget to pay attention to their own needs. That’s why it’s important to remind them to practice self-care in their own daily lives.

This can look like setting healthy boundaries and holding space for themselves, maintaining a good work-life balance, making time to do things they love… The list goes on, but the important thing is that the activities they choose to do maintain and enhance their health and well-being.

(We recommend sending this handy Self-Care Guide for Managers to any managers you know—it contains lots of helpful tips and suggestions for those in charge of managing others.)

Encourage them to build good, positive relationships that can support them

The relationships we build form the foundations for our social health and mental well-being. New managers in particular will be particularly reliant on a strong network of healthy relationships.

First, with their reports. A good relationship with the people they manage can be a big weight lifted off the shoulders of new managers. But, at the same time, there will inevitably be some things a manager can’t—and shouldn’t—discuss with their reports.

Which is why it’s important that they also have a support network of other people. It could be old friends, family, or even a mentor outside of the organization. The key thing is that these people can act as sounding boards—which is imperative for young managers who may need some help (especially at the beginning!) sorting through their thoughts and emotions to find the best path that works for them.

Remind them it’s okay to be human

New managers may feel the need to be extra productive, super efficient, and completely unflappable. But burying their needs and emotions and having to be constantly “on” isn’t good—because it will put them on a fast-track to burnout.

So while it is important that they present a certain ease and confidence to their reports, it’s also equally important that they know it’s okay for them to not be superhuman. In fact, being honest about their mental well-being and experiences can help to normalize conversations about mental health in the workplace.

Becoming a manager can be an intimidating prospect, but it’s a role that is incredibly enriching. With a bit of help and support from those around them, new managers can be a force for good in the organization—and a champion of employee well-being and happiness.

If you’re looking to give your managers (and other employees) additional support that they can access at their own pace, Calm could be just what you’re looking for. With a diverse range of enriching masterclasses, guided meditations, relaxing music, sleep stories, and exercises to suit all aspects of life, Calm for Business is a great option to round out your benefits suite. Try Calm for Business today.

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