I Manage Garry Overworked and underappreciated

The days of not talking about mental health are long behind us. Our understanding of the relationship between mental health, physical health and performance at work is very clear. As a supervisor we need to create a work environment that supports and encourages open, honest conversations with our staff.

Why? What’s in it for you as an employer/supervisor?

  • Good mental health supports us to be more resilient and cope with stress. The passenger transport industry needs drivers, mechanics and support staff that are strong problem solvers and resilient to ensure we deal with the varying nature of our work every day.
  • A supportive workplace reduces absenteeism and decreases turnover. We know how hard it is to get good staff, a mentally healthy workplace ensures you keep them.
  • A mentally healthy workplace has been shown to improve decision making, confidence and productivity.
  • We meet our regulatory obligations by addressing psychosocial risks in our workplace Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a large part of your role as a supervisor.

We know that the most influential person in any workplace with respect to a worker’s health and safety is their front-line supervisor. As 1 in 6 Australian workers suffer from a mental health condition so it is likely that any one of your staff is currently experiencing symptoms. Steps to build a safe and supportive environment include:


Understand and challenge your own biases and stigmas. There is often a lack of understanding of mental health conditions in your workplace, and stigma and myths that would be impacting on Garry’s view of himself and his colleagues view of him. Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:

  • Garry just needs a holiday – Part of his treatment, may involve some rest, but treatment needs to be driven by his GP.
  • Garry needs to toughen up, after all COVID has been hard on everyone – Mental illness is not a weakness. It is due to a range of social, genetic biological and environmental factors.
  • Garry is just burnt out, its common in the bus industry – Garry needs appropriate treatment to assist him with the expectation that he will recover and begin to experience job satisfaction.


Support Garry. Engage in regular, simple, informal conversations help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Garry is. Find the time to ask about Garry’s favourite sport, share what you are watching on Netflix, ask about Garry’s family and how they are going.


It is important that you find the right time to talk to Garry about his mental health. Not his performance. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Garry feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Ask open questions and give Garry time to respond. Make sure you have enough time to sit and listen if he opens up. If you unsure of how to start, just be your authentic self and be sincere when you ask, “Are you ok?”. Please refer to “I know Garry” section for more examples of how to start the conversation.


Refer Garry for help through:

  • Your EAP service.
  • Supporting him to visit his GP.
  • Supporting him with rostering/workplace adjustments, such as removing him from on call and needing to answer the on call ops phone when he is at home


Anxiety can be successfully treated. By understanding what these are you can provide the necessary support and direction to your team on accessing a treatment that supports them. To learn more about treatment options for anxiety, please click here.


Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/anxiety

If you want to talk to someone for free you can

Mensline https://mensline.org.au

Mindspot https://www.mindspot.org.au

Living with a mental health condition looks different for everyone.
Click on the profiles below to understand what experiencing mental health issues might look like in your workplace, and how to get help.