Should You Worry if an Employee Seems Depressed?

Joe Weinlick
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As a manager, you have the tough job of balancing the needs of the business with the needs of your direct reports. Employee depression is a serious issue that impacts the entire workplace, but most management training guides don't outline how to spot the signs of depression or help employees stay productive while fighting bouts of sadness or hopelessness. Here are several ways to handle the issue of employee depression in your workplace.

To deal with employee depression effectively, you must be able to spot the signs of depression in your direct reports. If an employee who used to be a top performer suddenly starts turning in shoddy work or failing to complete assignments, that's a red flag. Taking more sick days than usual, behavioral changes and excessive yawning are also signs your employee might need help. If you notice any of these signs, you must handle the situation in a confidential, sensitive manner.

Because there is such a stigma surrounding mental-health issues, many employees try to hide their depression from supervisors and colleagues. One of the best things you can do is encourage employees to share their concerns and take advantage of workplace programs designed to help people struggling with mental illness.

In March 2015, the copilot of a Germanwings flight bound for Düsseldorf purposely crashed the plane in the French Alps, according to official reports. Dr. David B. Samadi of Fox News says the copilot was suffering from depression, but it appears he hid his illness from his employer. If you are proactive about providing resources that can help with employee depression, you have a chance to help your employees and avoid outbursts that can affect your entire company

If you know someone in your department is struggling with depression, do your best to make accommodations for that person. Offering extra time off or allowing an employee to modify his work schedule so he can attend weekly therapy sessions is a good start. Once you know you are dealing with employee depression, talk to the human resources department about what else you can do to provide assistance. If you work for a small business that does not have a formal HR department, talk to the owner or board of directors instead.

One of the best ways to deal with employee depression is to make helpful resources available to your employees. If you have an employee-assistance program, encourage employees to take advantage of free counseling sessions. Some programs also offer free depression-screening sessions for employees who aren't sure if they are struggling with clinical depression. If your workplace does not have an EAP, think of other ways to help. You might be able to pay for an employee to attend counseling sessions or offer additional paid sick days so he doesn't lose income while addressing his depression.

For an employee struggling with depression, it can be difficult to focus on the task at hand, increasing the likelihood of errors or missed deadlines. As a manager, helping employees manage their depression also improves morale and helps your department generate better results. If you suspect one of your employees is depressed, talk to an HR representative to determine the best way to go about handling employee depression in your workplace.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jeremy, unfortunately we hear this a lot about HR departments siding totally with the manager and leaving the employee hanging. Maybe they were having a bad day or maybe that's the way they operate. Either way, Renaud is better off away from a company like that. We all have crazy paperwork and deadlines but that's no excuse for HR to treat an employee that way!

  • Jeremy Adams
    Jeremy Adams

    Then that's not a very good HR. by very definition they are to handle the human resources, the employees, while the boss handles other resources. Their main job is to take care of the employee legally to protect the boss then take care of the employees needs to keep them happy for the business. If your HR acts like you are a waist of their time then their priorities are off and if it was just one conversation leading to this then it just may have been an off day for your HR person, they have crazy paperwork and deadlines

  • Renaud Lemieux
    Renaud Lemieux

    the HR never help a worker, he do just what his boss say. In fact, his boss use him as a screen saver.For my part, I never see any HR take note when I psoke to them, but when the boss have a meeting with me ,he always bring HR to take note and he get a lot of notation if he go in the court.How can you defend yourself with your very small budget.

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