Yesterday, my work day started like most others- with coffee and a low-grade resentment. As the day progressed, I kept busy and productive. Little did I know that things would take a bit of a turn around 2:30 pm.
That was the time an agitated and upset employee came into my office for a talk.
Which is when I found out that he had strongly contemplated suicide the night before.
To give you some back story, this employee is has really not been any source of problems for me. He’s generally easy going, and does decent work. Most of his fellow workers like him well enough.
But over the past year, folks have been noticing a change in him. Nothing major, but people noted that he was angering more easily. Becoming more agitated and confrontational. Espousing conspiracy theories about management. Things like that.
Most of which I never heard about until very recently.
Anyway, last week I had to go out of town in business. And that happened to be the time when the employee in question completely blew up at another employee. I mean lost it. Yelled, called names, swore at, ranted and raved. It was so uncharacteristic that as soon as I got back to work I was quickly cornered and debriefed on the situation.
The employees (as there were two that came under wrath) both expressed concern for their worker.
So, being a manager I had to step in. I brought in the employee in question this past Monday and I had to write him up for his disrespectful and aggressive behavior. And I also tried to draw him out and counsel him some.
The meeting on Monday didn’t go well.
Said employee was still belligerent and unremorseful and even threatened to go to the union alleging harassment. He also mentioned possibly becoming a whistleblower on the company- but in what grounds he wouldn’t say. He also continued to say disrespectful things toward the employee that received the majority of the wrath.
We talked a lot about appropriate workplace behavior and I even provided options for people he could talk to if he felt like I wasn’t being reasonable.
That was Monday.
Then Tuesday he came into my office before his shift and we talked again. And again he was clearly agitated and upset. More talk about whistleblowing and filing grievances but his verbal diatribe was very disjointed. He even said some off the wall things. Again I used my calm and training to diffuse the situation and to focus on how we could move forward. We talked a lot about sitting down with all parties involved (along with HR) so that we could all improve communication and so that said employee would feel comfortable and safe at work and not harassed.
That was Tuesday.
Yesterday, said employee came into my office again before work, but his demeanor was much different. He was still upset, but contrite. He apologized and said he was dropping all grievance and whistleblowing. And then he started to cry.
When I asked him what was going on and if he was okay, that’s when he how his life was spiraling and he was worried about layoffs and retirement and his health… and then he mentioned suicide.
I didn’t get details, but it sounded like he had possibly attempted it the night before but then had a realization that he wanted to live.
We talked a lot after this. I reassured him that his coworkers weren’t upset at him, but were only concerned about him because his behavior was so very uncharacteristic. Since he had brought up health concerns, I counseled him to definitely follow up with his doctors and explore medicine options. HR had given me a sheet of “services” that the company supports and we discussed these.
I also told him he was to come into my office ANY time he wanted to talk and that I was here for him.
And I printed out numbers for local and national suicide prevention hotlines and made sure he had those.
After composing himself in my office, he did go out and apologize to the workers he blew up at, and they were just as gracious and understanding as I knew they would be. And both said that if he needed anything all he had to do was ask.
Today, I was relieved when I saw him come into work. He seems a bit calmer, but I’m still concerned about him. And yes, I’ll be talking to our HR department so they know what all transpired. (Our HR department is 2 people and one has been out all week- the other leaves at 3). They may want to intervene more than I have.
I am glad that I was able to be there for him. I’m glad it wasn’t anyone else, as most other managers where I work lack any sort of empathy. I also doubt they know anyone who’s struggled with suicidal thoughts.
I just hope I was enough. And I hope that he gets the help that I believe he needs.
This week (and yesterday in particular) were definitely not what I was expecting. Little do any of us know what each day will bring, really.