Idea in Brief

The Problem

Many managers are given first aid training in the office. But very few receive any training for dealing with mental health crises that may arise in the workplace.

The Background

Amidst heightened stressors, including the lingering effects of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, more employees than ever are experiencing issues such as anxiety and depression at work. And increasingly, employees are open to having—and even expect to have—conversations about mental health challenges that are affecting their performance.

A Helpful Response

This article introduces the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a mental-health first-aid tool to help employees address emotional distress and negative behavioral patterns.

Ahmed could tell his team was on edge. Recent layoffs in the industry and poor company performance had his people worried about job security. But he was most concerned about Melia, one of his direct reports. She had been taking more sick days than usual, and when she was in the office, she seemed distracted. In meetings, she lacked focus. Once a high-performing, enthusiastic colleague, she now seemed low-energy, and her productivity was suffering. Offhand remarks from other team members suggested she was struggling with eldercare for her ailing mother. One day, Ahmed found Melia weeping in an empty conference room. He apologized awkwardly and retreated to his desk, unsure of how to proceed.

A version of this article appeared in the September–October 2023 issue of Harvard Business Review.