HRDTV Meghan Markle Exclusive: What should HR have done?

How can HR do more to support mental health at work?

Meghan and Harry’s recent interview with Oprah was a revealing look at how many people often struggle in silence with mental health issues brought on by stress and anxiety.

While the royals are first and foremost a family, their public position and large staff mean they suffer from many of the same HR issues as more traditional companies.

If you were an HR leader, and Meghan Markle approached you with issues related to feeling alienated by co-workers, depression, and racist comments, how would you handle the situation?

HRD speaks to Dr Melanie Peacock as she outlines how HR can handle serious internal issues and help employees in need.











Interview Transcript

Emily Douglas: Welcome to HRDTV.  Today I'm joined with Dr Melanie Peacock, who is a passionate consultant and educator. So, Hi Melanie. Welcome.

So, the burning issue for this episode is Meghan Markle. Assuming that she was your employee, if she came to you as an HR leader, how would you have handled the situation?

Dr. Melanie Peacock: When an employee approaches us from a place of vulnerability and honesty, there are key steps that need to be taken. I’m going to put this under the umbrella and the understanding that HR professionals are not licensed counsellors. We're not psychiatrists or psychologists and we need to remember that.

So, the first thing an HR professional should do is listen. Be still, be present, and listen.

The next step an HR person should do is advise the employee of the organization's policies, procedures, and resources available to them when they're in a time of need and mental distress. So typically, that involves things like referring them to an employee family assistance program, outside resources that are available, the experts that can actually attend to and help with mental health issues.

The next step the HR person should do is remind the employee that this is confidential. People need to hear this. It might seem obvious, but as you're pointing them to these resources, it's really critical to remind the employee, to inform the employee that anything that they avail themselves of is kept confidential and is meant to help them be healthier.

The fourth thing the HR person should do is encourage the employee to take advantage of these resources. People need to hear there's no shame in taking advantage of these or utilizing them.  I shouldn't even use the terminology taking advantage of because it sounds like you're doing something untoward. You're using the resources that are available to you.

And last but not least the HR person should follow up. You know when the person leaves the conversation even though it's confidential, I would follow up with the employee and say, “just wanted to follow up do you have any further questions? I’m again encouraging you to avail yourself of the resources that our company is providing. We care about you. we want you to be healthy, we want you to be a vibrant productive part of this organization. You don't have to share anything more with me if you did or didn't because that's confidential. But I wanted you to know that I care, the organization cares, and we hope you've availed of these resources. If you have other questions or need to talk to me about how the processes work or what other resources could be available, you know how to reach me.

I’m here for you.”

Emily Douglas: Thank you, Melanie for your practical advice there and thank you all for watching HRDTV.