May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while it’s easy for companies to get swept up in the hype surrounding a nationwide conversation about the importance of mental health, the real value is found in the companies that promote mental health in their daily operations year-round.

As an advocate of mental health awareness, I try to bring that experience and advocacy into the day-to-day operations with my team. My advice? Always treat people like the humans that they are. As Chris Pratt’s Owen in Jurassic World so eloquently put it: “You're in charge out here, you've got to make a lot of tough decisions, it's probably easier to pretend these [people] are just numbers on a spreadsheet. But they're not. They're alive.”

Sometimes, we get so swept up in deliverables, KPIs, profit margins, and our own lives that we become removed from our coworkers and start seeing them as numbers or “resources.”  In your day-to-day operations, it’s important to remember that you are dealing with people, not machines.

People all have a life outside of work. And often, that life will affect the way even the best employees do their job. We need to let our employees and teammates bring their whole selves to work because it’s those experiences, relationships, successes, and failures that ultimately make them who they are and allow them to do their job well.

There’s a misconception as leaders that if we get too involved with people, they’ll take advantage, and we’ll miss important deadlines or quality will slip. In fact, most people respond with respect and quality work you if you are genuinely, authentically invested in their best interests personally and professionally. According to the 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey, 90% of US workers believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction. And where there is job satisfaction, there is organizational productivity, low employee turnover, and overall higher quality work.

Wondering what changes you can make to show your employees that genuine vested interest? Consider your next interaction with a colleague that’s missed a deadline. Instead of approaching it as:

“Susan, you didn’t turn in your Friday dashboard again; if you consistently miss this deadline, we’ll have to take disciplinary action,”


“Susan, I’ve noticed that you didn’t turn in your Friday dashboard again. Is something going on? How can I support you to enable you to accomplish this goal?”

A change of tone shifts the conversation from one of blame to one of collaboration and support. Give Susan the opportunity to tell you why she’s having problems with the report—maybe she doesn’t understand the assignment, or she’s swamped with other projects, or there’s an external factor like a health issue, but you don’t know until you ask.

Ultimately, it’s a simple premise. Treat people like people instead of cogs on a wheel or numbers on a spreadsheet and your employees will notice. 

Jill is Program Manager for LMD's work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). She uses her leadership expertise and experience in cybersecurity to develop and manage CISA campaigns. Her attention to detail and organizational skills serve her well in her position as she manages the day-to-day campaign operations as well as long-term strategy. Jill has a B.A in corporate communications and spanish from Lycoming College.