How to Help an Employee With Depression

Reaching out to a depressed employee shows you care.
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Depression is a condition that not only affects an employee, but it can also result in decreased company productivity. For this reason, it's important to deal with the situation as soon as you recognize there is a problem. When attempting to help an employee get through depression, recognize your limitations. Be careful not to cross those boundaries.

Look For Clues

Before attempting to help an employee, determine whether or not depression is really the issue. Unless the employee makes an outright confession, don't assume anything. Instead, look for clues. For instance, if a highly productive employee suddenly becomes unproductive, it may be the result of depression. If an employee with great attendance records suddenly develops poor attendance habits, it can be a sign of depression. If the quality of the employee's work decreases for no apparent reason, it may be the result of depression.

Talk About It

Once you determine that depression is possibility, have a discussion with the employee. During the discussion, don't mention “depression.” It's not your job to diagnose the employee's condition. Instead, let her know that you've noticed a significant change in her job performance or productivity. Mention that you are concerned because the behavior is not normal for her. Let her know that you are there if she needs someone to listen.

Refer To Resources

There is a difference between listening and counseling. If the employee starts asking for advice or feedback regarding her issues, resist the temptation to counsel her. Doing so can result in a liability for your company, especially if the employee accuses you of giving her bad counsel. Let the employee know you are not in a position to counsel her or give advice. If your company has an employee assistance program available, refer her to an employee assistance program counselors. If EAP counseling is not an option, the employee might be able to use her employee health insurance policy to get counseling.

Offer Time Off

A prolonged period of depression is often viewed as a medical condition. This condition is referred to as clinical depression. If the employee is diagnosed as clinically depressed, she may qualify to take reduced or intermittent leave under the federal government's Family and Medical Leave Act. With reduced leave, the employee's work hours are reduced. With intermittent leave, she is allowed to request time off, as needed, to tend to her medical condition. This allows her to attend therapy and counseling sessions without worrying about losing her job.

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