Depression in the Workplace

The manager's role in managing depression in the workplace. How to help an employee with depression or depressive illnesses.

For most of us, work provides structure to our day, the opportunity to socialize, a sense of accomplishment, and a source of happiness. In other words, work can reduce the likelihood of becoming depressed.

There are many things you can do to achieve satisfaction in your work.

Some of the things you can do to remain happy and healthy at work:

  • pursue jobs that offer you an opportunity to develop your skills,
  • clarify the performance expectations that your boss or manager has for you,
  • ask for assistance to meet these expectations when you need it,
  • educate yourself about new technologies and learning new skills so that you remain interested and challenged, and
  • take advantage of company resources to help support you through difficult times (e.g. employee assistance, human resources).

The manager's role in managing depression in the workplace

Depressive illnesses can affect an employee's productivity, judgment, ability to work with others, and overall job performance. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions may lead to costly mistakes or accidents.

The manager's role in managing depression in the workplace. How to help an employee with depression or depressive illnesses.Changes in performance and on-the-job behaviors that may suggest an employee is suffering from a depressive illness include:

  • Decreased or inconsistent productivity
  • Absenteeism, tardiness, frequent absence from work station
  • Increased errors, diminished work quality
  • Procrastination, missed deadlines
  • Withdrawal from co-workers
  • Overly sensitive and/or emotional reactions
  • Decreased interest in work
  • Slowed thoughts
  • Difficulty learning and remembering
  • Slow movement and actions
  • Frequent comments about being tired all the time

These same warning signs could point to any number of a broad range of problems. As a leader, resist the temptation to diagnose what you see as depression. Stick instead to just recognizing that something is wrong, and taking caring and respectful action to refer the employee to the company employee assistance professional or occupational health nurse.

It's time to talk with an employee when you've noticed several of the warning signs listed above. The sooner you have this conversation, the better.

This is a chance for you to express care and concern, provide feedback on job performance, and refer the employee to a resource that can help. If you're not sure when or how to begin your conversation with the employee, contact your employee assistance professional or occupational health nurse for ideas and suggestions.

As the employee with depression:

If you are employed and feeling depressed, seek advice. Your company may have resources to help you (e.g., an employee assistance professional or occupational health nurse) or you can seek outside help (e.g., family doctor). It is important to keep working if you are able. Do whatever you are capable of doing. Doing nothing, and resting in bed, will only complicate your feelings of worthlessness and contribute to your depressed mood.

As a co-worker of someone who is depressed:

If you know someone in the workplace who may be depressed, talk with them and encourage them to seek help from a company resource (the employee assistance professional or occupational health nurse) or their doctor.

Look for signs such as these:
  • fatigue
  • unhappiness
  • excessive forgetfulness
  • irritability
  • propensity for crying spells
  • indecisiveness
  • lack of enthusiasm
  • withdrawal

You will know whether or not to help someone if you notice their depressed mood continues unabated for weeks, they don't appear to enjoy their usual interests, or if they have a sense of gloom about them.

Source: Scott Wallace, Ph.D., R.Psych.

next: Managers Should Be Aware Of Depression Symptoms
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, February 6). Depression in the Workplace, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: June 24, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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