As a people manager, you play a key role in talking with each person in your team about their wellbeing.

Use our structure and examples of what you can say in your next conversation.

Step 1: plan your conversation

As a people manager, try to prepare before you speak about any issues.

Where relevant, you may want to note down some things under each of these headings:

  1. Actions to take before the conversation
  2. Purpose of the conversation
  3. Desired outcomes (both yours and theirs)
  4. List of observed behaviours – relevant to the issues
  5. How you will start the conversation
  6. Key messages to cover during the conversation
  7. Anticipated reactions (both yours and theirs)
  8. How you will close the conversation
  9. Next steps to follow up after the conversation

Stage 2: approach the issue with care

Don’t ask for all the details right away. Be slow and gentle.

Here are some examples of what you can say:

  • A lot has been happening in your area lately – how are you doing?
  • How are you feeling about the current situation?
  • How are you feeling about these changes?

Stage 3: listening and understanding their issue

Practise active listening or hold space for them if they’re not ready to talk about the whole issue.

The key thing here is to focus on what they’re saying and show empathy.

Here are some examples of what you can say:

  • How are things going for you? It sounds like a tough time
  • Paraphrase to reflect back what they’ve said to show your understanding, “so if I’ve heard you right, these are some of the issues you’ve been dealing with…”
  • Don’t rush in with re-assurance and solutions such as “Don’t worry, it’ll be ok”, “You shouldn’t feel that way”, “Just focus on the positives”, as these statements often invalidate people’s experiences
  • Acknowledge rather than minimise their emotions

Stage 4: help them explore their options

Once you have listened and understand their issue, help them look at what they can do.

Focus on things that are in your or their control.

Here are some examples of what you can say:

  • Have you ever felt like this before?
  • How could the team help with this?
  • What can I do to support you?
  • What would help to manage the load?
  • What helped when you felt like this last time?

Stage 5: check they’ve got follow up support

If you don’t think you can deal with the issue on your own, you may want to suggest your team member speaks to someone else.

This could be your manager, GP or your organisation’s employee support program, which may be called EAP.

Here are some examples of what you can say:

  • If you need to talk, I’m here. Would you like to book in a time to catch-up next week?
  • Are you aware of our organisation’s employee support program? Some people find it helpful to talk with someone outside of work or home. I can help you access this support if you would like.