Advice From Leaders - Mental Health: Respect in the Workplace with Lynn Ryan


SNR is excited to launch the third interview in the series Advice From Leaders (AFL) where we chat with industry leaders on workplace themes and topics.  This month we chatted with NAIT’s Mental Health Coordinator, Lynn Ryan.

Name of Organization:  NAIT – Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT, located in Edmonton, is a polytechnic that offers a variety of educational programs that focus technical, hand-on training that meet industry needs. NAIT has a number of mental health initiatives designed to support students, faculty, and staff.


Lynn Ryan is the Mental Health Coordinator at NAIT. She is passionate about the well-being of people and likes to promote a healthy work environment so that individuals can build strong relationships and work-life balance. In chatting with Lynn, it was apparent that respect is an important value to her and we decided it makes for a great mental health topic to discuss.

 Primarily her role consists of identifying opportunities, collaborating on initiatives and administering the post-secondary mental health grant from the Government of Alberta that will help everyone’s overall mental health at NAIT. This is a busy role as she oversees a number of initiatives to implement and consistently reports back to the government about where and how the money has been used. In addition to her busy schedule, Lynn is also taking business classes on the side.

Why should organizations put an emphasis on mental health?

The psychological health of individuals plays a key role in productivity and the overall well-being of humans. Everyone has mental health, whether they are suffering from a personal issue or work-related one, it will impact their work. Organizations need to take the time to make sure their most valuable asset is functioning properly. Human capital is so important because an organization is nothing without its people.

Poor mental health can look like absenteeism or presenteeism. Both will have a negative impact on any organization as some individuals will struggle to make it to work or others will struggle to mentally be present and contribute to the work environment. This can start with people not seeing value in their work, or not feeling valued by their employers or peers.

What does respect in the workplace look like?

“To me, respect in the workplace is something that is embedded in your values and then enforced at every level”, says Lynn Ryan. The importance of respect is not only saying your organization values it but that you show it in your actions towards everyone. Respect looks like offering support to those who need it to provide a safe work environment. “If the environment created feels safe and supportive, individuals have an easier time asking for help or addressing issues before it reaches a crisis mode.” Says Lynn. If you can create an open line of communication and everyone feels like they are heard, it can prevent many issues in the workplace as well as promote great mental health. When organizations show their employees that they value them and recognize their efforts, it goes a long way.

Respect starting with top of an organization and creating open communication between management, supervisors and employees is key. Paying attention at the beginning is the best way to be cognizant of the well being of those surrounding you. When people feel like they can talk to anyone with their health concerns or issues, it can create a sense of community which is better for society. Everyone wants to be heard and recognized and there are many little ways to show that. When employees feel like they can talk to anyone no matter what position they are in it creates a feeling of security and belonging. Helping everyone around you and being aware of what good mental health looks like is very important.

What are some best practices employers can implement that address respect?

The most important best practice is to be aware of the people around you. Lynn suggests training opportunities for managers to learn more about mental health in the workplace and how to show respect. She believes empowering staff to speak up and feel heard, boosts company morale and well-being as a collective. Awareness is key to preventing and addressing issues.

If you are afraid of losing your job or not being considered for the promotion because you need to talk to someone, but feel as though you can’t, your health will suffer. Creating a safe feel for your work environment can prevent many issues and give individuals the comfort they need to be open and honest.

Respecting everyone’s ideas and opinions is important to boost productivity in any situation. Environments that thrive are filled with people who encourage others to share and discuss. Being able to develop relationships and better understand your employees can help you in helping them.

Quick tips to promote respect in the workplace:

  • Team meetings: Meetings boost morale and allow for new ideas to rise to the surface. Building relationships and recognizing your employees shows you respect them and the work they do.

  • 1-on-1: Get to know your people. Lynn suggested using Myers Briggs, or other communication based assessments, are helpful in getting to know your people and what you might need to adjust depending on who they are and how they communicate.

  • Establishing trust: Forming bonds with others and taking the time to earn their trust shows you value them as a person. This will aid in open communication and two-way trust.

  • Fun events: Sometimes it is important to energize people and show them they are valuable to you and the organization. This can look like going out for coffee or having a group social outing.

I want to leave you with two important points to consider:

  • People are your greatest asset. An organization is nothing if people aren’t there to build it and help it grow

  • Always be considerate and open with people, because they may need you and it is important to extend a hand to those in need.