Having Mental Health Conversations as a Leader with Andrea Herron, MA, PHR, SHRM-CP, Executive HR Leader & Coach

Andrea Herron Headshot

In the wake of COVID-19, leaders found themselves cast as impromptu mental health counselors, navigating uncharted waters overnight. Now, as discussions surrounding mental wellness continue to gain momentum, particularly with Gen Z placing it at the forefront, the need to address these issues within your team is vital.

Yet, the question persists: How does a leader approach such a sensitive topic without overstepping? Also, is it even the responsibility of leadership to initiate these conversations?

Today’s podcast guest, Andrea Herron, believes it is. Andrea, Vice President of HR at Web MD, is the host of the award-winning HR Scoop podcast and author of “There’s an Elephant in Your Office”, co-written with her sister. Most importantly, she’s been leading for the past 10 years and is doing her best to address the mental health of her team. Andrea’s here to share her mistakes and how we can all learn from them.

In this episode, Andrea shares how her sister hid her mental health struggles from the family and how that led them to co-author a book on mental health in the workplace. She discusses how a remote environment can make it difficult to tell how people are really doing. Andrea offers the #1 step organizations can take for teams to feel safe discussing mental health.

Andrea also shares the mistakes she made when addressing this sensitive subject with her team and how she recovered from those mistakes. She offers an easy way to check in with your team without asking about mental health. Finally, Andrea reflects on how her experiences have made her a more empathetic leader.

Key Highlights:

  • When Andrea’s sister revealed her mental health struggles, it shifted her perspective at work – if her sister was struggling, she assumed her team may be.
  • If a leader starts a conversation about mental health and makes it ok to talk about, it will help others talk about it.
  • Building trust is the first step. Your team won’t share if they don’t trust you. But even if you have a trusted relationship, not everyone wants to share (and that’s ok).
  • It’s never too late to go back and apologize if you messed up.
  • Leaders are not responsible for an employee’s behavior – good, bad, or neutral.
  • Two leader pitfalls: 1) not approving a small request or accommodation 2) not saying anything because you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing.
  • Look for observable, concrete behaviors when addressing your concern.
  • Try a “take 10 check-in”: 1.) How are you doing? 2.) How’s the team doing? 3.) How can I help?
  • Think about when someone was there for you in a difficult moment, you’ll never forget their kindness. When someone is in a tough spot, you can be a lifeline.
  • Don’t put a calendar invite on the calendar with no context.


There’s an Elephant in Your Office

Career Conversations Guide

Full Bio

Andrea Herron is the VP of HR at WebMD, a leadership consultant and coach, published author of “There’s an Elephant in Your Office,” and host of the award-winning podcast The HR Scoop. She was recently selected for the Ragan’s Top Women in Wellness and HR Award, an Agent of Change by American Healthcare Leader, and a Top Leader in DEIB by Mogul. She lives in Portland, OR with her family.