When the boss is having a (really) bad day

Everyone has a bad day when the boss is having a bad day!  Passing on the pain happens with parents in the home, coaches on sports teams, and bosses in workplaces.  A leader can typically make your life miserable or great under their influence.  Unfortunately, some leaders choose to use their power to make others miserable simply because they are sad.

I experienced this phenomenon to the extreme while serving in the US Army.  The control a supervisor has over people under their command in the military creates an environment where there’s almost no limit to how miserable a boss can make the people around them when having a bad day in the US Military.

Vince Hafeli climbed to the top of the ladder.  He went from being a simple construction worker to becoming the CEO and president of Ajax Paving, one of America’s most respected commercial construction companies.  Like the military, leaders in the construction industry have significant influence over their employees while on the job.  Therefore, Vince influences a lot of people by the way he leads. 

However, while Vince was a rising star at work, his home life was very different.

Don’t be a hero at work and zero at home!

No company policy dictates everyone must have a bad day when the boss is struggling.  The conditions that make it possible for the boss to ruin your day also make it possible for the boss to make your day much better.  Vince tried to lead his company so they didn’t feel the effects of his challenges and struggles. 

He chose to use his influence at work to make life better for his team, even when he was suffering personally.  However, this didn’t leave much for his personal or family life.  As a result, no one knew how bad Vince’s struggles were at home.

Don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations… while you still can!

Vince is proof that no one is immune to emotional or psychological challenges.  When Vince was at the top of his professional life, he was at the bottom of his personal life.  Unable to find a way out of his problems, one night after dinner with his family, Vince drove in his truck to a work site with the intention of taking his own life.

A phone call from his wife saved Vince’s life.  Vince is alive today because his son showed up before he could go through with his planned suicide.  At the time, he adamantly denied that he was considering suicide.  He tried to dismiss and cover up his struggles.  His suicide attempt left him ashamed and guilty, but guilt did nothing to help Vince recover.  His son’s willingness to step in at the perfect moment saved Vince’s life. 

No longer able to hide his struggles, Vince finally dealt with his mental health challenges years later.  Eventually, Vince began a journey to get the mental health help he needed.   Today, he uses this personal example to remind people to have an awkward conversation with a loved one that might be struggling… before it’s too late.

Don’t keep your struggles secret!

There are a lot of powerful lessons Vince learned after attempting to kill himself.  However, his life took off in a direction no one expected when he found the courage to share his struggles with his team.  When the president of the company confesses personal struggles to the point of suicide, perhaps it opens the door for others in the room that were experiencing the same struggles.

Because construction is a physically demanding and often mentally challenging industry, employees live under high physical and emotional stress.  This demanding industry can drive many to fain that they are doing well when their life is falling apart. 

One day Vince got sick of the suicide rates and mental health casualties in his industry.  He decided it was time for him to be honest and open about his struggles.  After sharing his thoughts about suicide with his team at Ajax Paving, people started opening up to Vince in unheard-of ways in his industry. 

The conversation spread like wildfire when Vince admitted his personal struggles with his team.  Soon other companies and organizations were asking Vince to come and speak to their company about mental health challenges and the sky-high rate of suicide in the construction industry.  Today, Vince is in high demand as a bold public speaker, not just a respected leader in the construction industry. 

There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from Vince’s genuine leadership.  However, his courage to speak boldly about suicide, a word most people don’t even like to whisper, is commendable.  To honor Vince’s example, I want to provide some advice for everyone about developing better mental health.

Top 5 rules about mental health:

1.  Don’t ignore your mental health.  It’s just as important as your physical health.

2.  Don’t be afraid to get help when you get stuck.  Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

3.  Don’t think you’re immune.  Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or background.

4.  Don’t separate this area from the rest of your life.  Taking care of your mental health is essential for living a fulfilling life.

5.  Don’t listen to the macho morons who act like this is a weakness.  They prevent people from seeking help by contributing to the stigma surrounding mental health.

Listen to my whole conversation with Vince HERE

Further reading

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