Skip to main content

According to a report by the Workforce Institute at Human Capital Management Software company, UKG, a person’s manager at work has more influence on employees’ mental health than therapists and doctors. The study surveyed 2,200 employees and 1,200 leaders in 10 countries.

Other common employee responses?

  • One in three said their manager fails to recognize the impact they have on their team’s mental well-being.
  • Nearly three in four said stress from work negatively impacts their home life.
  • Two-thirds would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness.
  • A majority (70 percent) want their company to do more to support mental health.

The survey of C-suite and Human Resource leaders varied greatly from the results of employees. Nine in 10 of this surveyed group responded that working for their company had a positive impact on employee mental health… while only 50% of the employees agreed.

A manager at work can have a significant impact on an employee’s mental health. A good manager can create a positive work environment that supports employee well-being, while a bad manager can create a stressful and toxic environment that can lead to mental health problems.

Here Are Ways Managers Damage an Employee’s Mental Well Being

  • Micromanagement: Micromanaging is when a manager closely controls and monitors an employee’s work, often to the point of being intrusive. This can be very stressful for employees, as it can make them feel like they are constantly being watched and judged.
  • Unfairness: Unfair treatment from a manager can also be very stressful for employees. This can include things like favoritism, discrimination, or being denied opportunities.
  • Lack of support: A lack of support from a manager can also be a major source of stress for employees. This can include things like not being given the resources or training they need to do their job or not being given the opportunity to give input or make decisions.
  • Toxic behavior: A toxic manager is someone who engages in negative and destructive behavior, such as bullying, yelling, or name-calling. This can be very harmful to employee mental health and can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

How Can Managers Positively Affect Employees Mental Well Being

  • Create a positive work environment: A good manager can create a positive work environment by being supportive, fair, and respectful. They can also create a sense of community and belonging among employees.
  • Provide clear expectations: A good manager provides clear expectations to employees so that they know what is expected of them. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Provide feedback: A good manager provides regular feedback to employees so that they can learn and grow. This can help to boost employee confidence and motivation.
  • Be a mentor: A good manager can be a mentor to employees, providing guidance and support. This can help employees to develop their careers and achieve their goals.

What Does This Mean For You As A Leader?

What this survey says is there is a good chance a manager’s opinion of the effect they have on their team is altogether detached from reality. There is a 90% chance a manager is walking through life thinking they are an inspirational, aspirational team leader while their team thinks they’re the Meryl Streep character from the Devil Wear’s Prada (Hey, don’t take my man card, I never sat through this movie but I have notional knowledge).

For your reading enjoyment, here are five examples from Inc. Magazine of bonehead managerial moves.

  1. I hate to disturb you, but – I was filling in for a co-worker who was having a baby by Caesarian that morning. The boss couldn’t find a file and asked me if there was any way I could contact the absent employee to ask her where he could locate the file. I replied in jest: “Sure, I can call the hospital and have her paged.” Ten minutes later, the boss reappeared at my desk and asked, “Did you reach her yet?”

  2. It’s all about the bottom line – As a service to the community, my company donates food to the homeless. Shortly after my boss became director of this program, he determined that it was “losing money” because it took employee time to gather and deliver the food. In his next staff meeting, he asked: “Do you think there’s some way we could charge the homeless for the food?”
  3. Second prize: a set of steak knives – Every month we had a “Sales Rep of the Month” contest. Each month, the winner just happened to be the daughter of the company’s owner. The sales manager made a big deal about congratulating her, awarding her prize money at company meetings with her name on a plaque. The rep with the lowest sales was awarded a plastic chicken that he had to carry to every meeting for the rest of the month.

  4. Maybe it was her evil twin – Our boss decided to attend our Friday-evening sales meeting, which took place in the back room of a local tavern. She had a few too many and proceeded to make out with, dance on, and hug all of the male sales people. We finally sent her home in a cab after she face-plowed in the middle of the bar. To redeem herself on Monday, she publicly accused the entire sales force of making up stories about her.

  5. Honesty is the best policy – At our recent monthly review meeting, my boss showed a video about the importance of morals and ethics, and expounded upon such virtues as optimism, hard work, and honesty. The movie was very uplifting and motivating, but just before the lights came on, a final message ran across the screen: “For demo purposes only–illegal to use for training.”


Overall, the relationship between a manager and an employee can have a significant impact on employee mental health. A good manager can create a positive work environment that supports employee well-being, while a bad manager can create a stressful and toxic environment that can lead to mental health problems.

So are you an inspirational leader or a monster? Want to talk about management styles, employee motivation, and team inspiration with a leadership coach? Try a no-obligation executive, 1-hour online executive coaching session. See if coaching and this coach work for you. Schedule a session now by pressing that button down there.

Want to improve your odds of success as a leader? Want to get more than you thought possible out of your team? You can check out my new book, Intentional Leadership, available on Amazon, in Hardcover, Kindle, or Paperback by linking here.