Poor supervision, bad corporate culture hurt staff mental well-being

Stress, anxiety, depression, exhaustion and burnout are not new phenomena at the workplace.

They have always existed; companies are now beginning to realise the need to contain them, as they negatively affect productivity (More firms offering counselling for staff; Oct 19).

Counselling affected staff is only one part of the equation. The other, and more important, part is to understand the root causes of these phenomena, which staff may not truthfully articulate during counselling sessions, for fear of repercussions.

I have spent 37 years in the corporate world, with more than half of that time in senior management positions. I keep in touch with corporate practices through interaction with my working children and friends.

I have observed that the root causes of poor mental well-being among staff are essentially poor quality supervision and bad corporate culture.

Supervisors can alleviate the situation by refraining from:

•Micromanaging and not giving staff space to function effectively.

•Shifting performance targets and introducing additional criteria along the way, after having agreed on the initial targets, or employing subjective performance indicators, leaving staff to second-guess.

•Making empty promises and going back on their word.

•Taking credit for successes and blaming staff for failures.

•Being preoccupied with their own job security and longevity, at the expense of staff.

•Suppressing young talents, instead of mentoring and grooming them, seeing them as threats to themselves and their favoured senior staff.

•Contacting staff on trivial matters at odd hours and when they are on leave.

A bad corporate culture - characterised by politicking, backbiting, back-stabbing, envy, jealousy, one-upmanship, mollycoddling bosses, and the like - renders the work environment unconducive, suspicious and hostile.

Ensuring quality supervision and a good corporate culture is the responsibility of the chief executive.

Unfortunately, in most instances, the chief executive does not take an interest in them and is detached from the ground, leaving line managers to their own devices and putting staff at their mercy.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'Poor supervision, bad corporate culture hurt staff mental well-being'. Print Edition | Subscribe