One on one conversation guide for leaders
This guide gives leaders practical guidance on how to have effective one on one meetings with staff that will identify and address mental health risk factors. It's important to set up ways of connecting with your employees to support their mental health and wellbeing.
How to use this conversation guide
This conversation guide has been designed with a structure to follow and example questions to support effective discussions with your workers.
Read through the guide before the meeting so you can be prepared. You might like to take a printed copy into your meeting so that you can refer back to it.
Principles to keep in mind before you start
Approach these meetings with the goal of understanding your employee’s point of view and taking action if they raise concerns.
Always keep the core communication principles of any effective conversation in mind:
- Listen – stay calm and present in the moment to allow staff the opportunity to express their feelings.
- Acknowledge and reflect back what you have heard.
- Ask open-ended questions to get more information and clarify their issues/concerns.
- Summarise their concerns – e.g. “What I’m hearing is… is that right?”
Set the scene by choosing a quiet place free from distractions to have your one on one conversations with staff. This will make it easier for you both to fully engage in the conversation and comfortably discuss all topics.
The purpose of your one on one conversation should be clearly communicated as your commitment to taking practical actions to support your staff, and linked to the broader goals of the business around mental health and wellbeing.
Take the time to build a trusting relationship and understand what is happening for them not just at work, but also at home. This will help you notice when their behaviour changes and show you genuinely care and want to support them.
- "How are things going at home?”
- “How is your current workload affecting you?”
- “How did you feel during our recent busy period?”
- “There were a few errors in your last piece of work which is unusual for you. Is everything okay?” Follow up by asking them to describe what they’ve got going on at the moment.
It is important to discuss and assess risk factors related to the current work climate that can impact the mental health of your staff. For example:
- “How are you feeling about the increased workload demands? How are these impacting your wellbeing?”
- “How are you managing the work that you need to complete in the current workday/environment?”
- “Do you feel you have clarity in your role during this period of uncertainty and change?”
- “How can I best support you?”
Make sure you cover any psychological risks identified by your staff. Here are some examples of questions you can ask that help address common workplace psychological risks:
- “Is your workload achievable?”
- “How is it being managed?”
- “How is it affecting you?”
- “Are there a variety of tasks and enough work-life balance?”
Achievement and recognition
- “What are your achievements since our last meeting?”
- “Do you have enough opportunities to get and give recognition?”
- “Is there someone you have been working with, you think is doing a great job?”
- “I’d like to thank you for doing a great job on…”
- “What are your key learnings from projects?”
Support and challenges
- “What more can we do to manage workplace hazards and risk factors?”
- “Do you need support for any work tasks?”
- “Do you need further training?”
- “Do you need further opportunities to learn new skills?”
- “Thanks for working on... Next time we also need you to consider…”
- “What do you need from your manager?”
- “How are your workplace relationships, consultation and communication going?”
Assess mental health risks
Remember, if mental health issues or any risks to mental health are raised, a plan should be discussed of what actions will be taken to address these. One way to do this is through a risk assessment.
The code of practice can help you determine how severe a risk is.
Continue developing the risk assessment from step 3 by keeping your workers informed. Work together by discussing their self-care techniques. Their on-the-ground experience can also be valuable in developing effective solutions. Examples of questions you could ask include:
- “What supports or adjustments would help you manage being at work at this time?”
- “Is there anything we need to change to help you?”
- “This is what we can do to support you, and what tools are available for practical support...”
- “This is what action I will take after the meeting to support you...”
- Are there any training/coaching needs you might have?”
Be mindful that workload and team priorities must be managed alongside the risk assessment.
Finish the meeting with 2-3 agreed goals/actions and continue to check in on these in future meetings.
Share supports resources
One on ones should happen regularly as part of a mentally healthy workplace. Sharing support resources is a good idea whether or not any issues were raised or changes in your workers are noticed.
Familiarise yourself with the additional resources available and encourage your team to access them. These could include access to training courses, HR, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or their GP. For example:
- “You may find it useful to speak to someone else. Would you like me to give you the details of some resources I think might be helpful for you to consider?”
Discuss immediate workplace-related support they need
An example of this would be any work adjustments that could be made to support them, e.g. flexible working hours, changes to rostering, changes to work tasks (where possible), or time off.
Be sure to follow up with your employee after your meeting to continue your conversations and provide ongoing support. Make sure your employee is informed of the actions you are taking to address any concerns they have raised or to mitigate any risks they have identified.
Have regular one on ones and follow up with your staff on actions after every meeting, as it is important to continue these conversations, monitor their wellbeing and provide them with ongoing support.
Let them know you care
Offer to check in with them and arrange the next conversation. To ensure they feel supported, don’t leave too much time between check-ins. For example:
- “How about we speak again when your roster allows?”
- “I’d like to give you a call by the end of the week. Does that work for you?”
There are six steps to creating a mentally health workplace. One on one conversations are part of 'Step 2. Consult with your team'. See the next steps in our practical, step-by-step guide.
Join our mailing list
Be the first to hear new announcements, free training, recently published resources and more.