Paul Wright, Head of Inclusion and Sustainability, Bank of England is the manager of Anastasia Vinnikova who wrote this blog about her experiences.
So what is it like managing someone who’s open about their mental health condition? It’s not the first time for me. And if I’m honest with myself I don’t think I was much cop first time around. Looking back, they’d shared their condition with me and we had a chat about what it meant…what I regret not doing was checking in with them more often to find out how they were and offering the support they needed, rather than implicitly assuming they’d let me know.
Fast forward four years or so and, hopefully, it’s a different story and I’ve learnt from the past.
In some ways it’s no different from managing any other team member. You’ll often hear me say that one facet of management is treating people differently in order to treat them the same. I have to adapt the way I support individuals in order to support the team as a whole.
I knew about Anastasia’s condition before she joined my team. I’d briefly managed her old team earlier in the year and I’d read her blogs and posts on LinkedIn and on our intranet. That made it easier because she had been open about it and so I felt comfortable asking more about how she feels and how things manifest, meaning that I felt more equipped to support her.
I feel I’m getting it right this time but I am constantly learning! Anastasia often lets me know how she’s feeling. And we’re at the stage when she doesn’t always need to tell me – now and then I can spot the signs. Then I can ask what she needs from me; sometimes it’s just acknowledging that I know, sometimes it’s a chat about the support she needs, and sometimes it’s a case of leaving her to work things through in her own way.
But that’s not the whole story, the one thing that has really opened my eyes to people who suffer from depression or anxiety is how well they can hide it from the outside world and present a façade as if everything is fine. I don’t take anything at face value anymore.
What would I say to other managers who have someone on their team who has problems with their mental health? First off, read TJ’s blog! He’s been on both sides and offers great insight. One of the things that really resonated with me is that it’s imperative that I nurture an environment where it’s OK for us all to speak up about how we’re feeling, knowing that we won’t be judged, just supported.