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Mental Health

This Employee Took Off Work for Mental Health Reasons, and Her Boss Thanked Her

The CEO of Olark shares three ways to cultivate a supportive and open company culture.
This Employee Took Off Work for Mental Health Reasons, and Her Boss Thanked Her
Image credit: Shutterstock
3 min read

An estimated 43.4 million American adults 18 and older were reported as being affected by mental illness in 2015, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s a whopping 17.9 percent of the entire U.S. adult population.

Related: This Robot Therapist Talks to Patients Via Facebook

Companies across the country are beginning to recognize the importance of mental health care, including software company Olark.

Olark employee Madalyn Parker has struggled with anxiety and depression since her teens, she shared in a 2015 Medium post. When she needed to take a mental health day, all she had to do was notify her work.

Related: These 8 Companies Know the Impact of Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

Last month, after sending an email to her co-workers and boss notifying them that she would be out for mental health reasons, Olark CEO Ben Congleton responded by not only encouraging that she take the time off to focus on herself, but thanking her for her openness and strength. "You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work," he wrote in his email.

Parker shared her boss’s encouraging response on Twitter, which reviewed more than 14,000 retweets.

“Creating psychologically safe work environments is the base for high impact teams,” Congleton told Entrepreneur. In order to recruit great employees and build strong teams, the Olark CEO says he believes it’s more important than ever to create comfortable cultures.

Not sure how you can create a culture like Olark’s at your business? Take it from Congleton -- here are his three tips for cultivating a supportive and open company culture.

1. Get an executive coach.  

“Being a great manager is not innate. Most entrepreneurs are not born managers. There is an important distinction. A good executive coach will help you normalize reflection and continuously improve as a manager. It's a little known secret that the best managers have great executive coaches.”

2. Normalize vulnerability.

“Joe Greenstein and Semira Rahemtulla from Innerspace run an incredible workshop [in San Francisco] on founder communication. They have trained hundreds of founders on giving and receiving feedback, authenticity and values alignment. If you cannot attend their workshop, try to see your role as a leader as modeling vulnerability. Joe recommends starting meetings by taking one minute per participant to model vulnerability. Start each meeting of your executive team with, ‘If you really knew me now, you would know.’”

3. Practice empathy.

“Truly make the effort to listen and understand. Be curious. Learn the why, not just the what. Show kindness, and value different perspectives, experiences and ideas as though they were your own."


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