Peter Diaz, a world leading authority on workplace mental health and founder of the Workplace Mental Health Institute, today said ‘mental stealth’ is a growing problem in many organisations with disenfranchised and psychologically unsafe staff creating significant problems in the workplace.
Pedro Diaz is well known nationally and overseas for his cutting edge work in helping organisations to recognise the importance of mental health in the workplace and implement programs and systems to better manage and support the mental health of workers.
“Mental stealth is a term I developed to characterise the way people behave which causes psychological harm to others in the workplace,” Peter Diaz said today.
“These people are usually disenfranchised and disconnected from the values and goals of their team and the organisation. They are effectively toxic and they undermine the efforts of those around them and others across the organisation by creating undercurrents of tension, discontent, dissatisfaction and unease. They undermine authority and covertly go about causing chaos often without even being noticed. By the time people do become aware of what they are doing, they have created significant damage.
“It can be difficult to deal with these people because you can’t quite put your finger on what it is they have done or are doing because they are so clever at disguising their behaviour.
“This behaviour which I call mental stealth erodes workplace morale and organisational culture.
“I recently worked with an organisation where one of the organisation’s middle managers was overlooked for a promotion. While everyone thought this person was dealing with the disappointment OK, under the surface he was not. He started to make comments among other staff that cast doubt on the future financial viability of the organisation under the leadership of the successful candidate. This then caused anxiety because people began to worry about the security of their jobs. Productivity then fell and sales declined.”
Statistics suggest that nearly 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. Many will experience issues because of problems at work.
“It is important to understand that mental stealth is not a bullying issue, it is a psychological issue which results in mental health issues across the workplace,” Peter Diaz added.
“If staff are starting to feel uneasy about certain things in the workplace, this can escalate into mental health issues.
“Mental stealth is a growing problem across the world and Australian workplaces are not immune. Increasing competition and accelerated technological transformations are driving change, change which many people are not dealing with very well. They are feeling insecure and detached from their working environment.
“When people are feeling undervalued, insecure or unappreciated, they can act out these emotions and insecurities in a negative way – aiming to deliberately destabilise the status quo in order to inflict harm on those they feel are causing their hurt.
“How do you detect mental stealth issues in the workplace? You put in place systems which enable you to stay close to the heart beat of your organisation and the way people feel about the organisation’s leadership, operating style and culture – such as anonymous hotlines and other forms of employee assistance programs.
“Mental stealth is a big issue and can cause immeasurable damage unless it is detected, managed and eliminated.”