You might think it strange, mentioning “Love Island” and “positive employee support” in the same breath – particularly when you consider that I’m a coach who specialises in just that kind of support.
But as Love Island hit our screens again this summer, I’m compelled to think about the lessons it could teach us about the way we take care of the people who work for us.
You probably already know that two of the show’s former contestants, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, sadly committed suicide following their time on the show.
You may not have known that both of them had self-medicated before they ended their lives. In Mike Thalassitis’ case, “toxicology results showed there was cocaine, ethanol, antidepressants and paracetamol in his system at the time of his death”.
Many people will turn to self-medication to help them cope with difficult periods in their lives – whether that’s the aftermath of starring in a TV show watched by millions of people, dealing with the loss of someone close, or just to help ease the everyday effects of anxiety or stress.
For some people, self-medication amounts to nothing more than the occasional junk food binge, or calling their best friend for a long rant. For others, self-medication will take the more serious form of tablets, alcohol or drugs.
Shocking research from the US shows that combining drugs and alcohol can make people 16 times more likely to kill themselves.
But the more hopeful news is that when somebody decides to self-medicate, there will usually be warning signs. For example, Mike Thalassitis had kept a diary that documented his suicidal thoughts, with another contestant commenting that he had been in a “dark place”.
In the workplace, you could find that a once-punctual employee is suddenly late or absent for no apparent reason, or that they start to snap at their colleagues over seemingly small issues.
While most companies have documented HR procedures to deal with lateness or undocumented absence, these can sometimes miss the real, human reasons behind sudden changes in behaviour.
Responding with care, compassion, and a listening ear really can make a huge difference, as they show your employee that you are willing to provide genuine support for their issues, rather than just punishing their effects. In the long-term, this approach will help you build a reputation as a true employer of choice.
ITV has pledged to offer further support and “bespoke training”to future reality show contestants. Employers could do well to follow their lead, even if such support simply means encouraging their employees to open up in confidence about sudden changes in colleagues’ behaviour.
Our employee coaching services at Confidence to Return can help provide valuable support for your business and your employees, in a flexible manner that’s truly responsive to your needs.
To find out more, all you have to do is get in touch.