How can you help as a manager or a mate, if you think a carer is struggling?


"If someone looks like they’re struggling they probably are.” - Samara Dobbins Samara Dobbins, Deputy Secretary, People & Operations at Department of Premier and Cabinet (NSW)

The roller coaster of complex challenges many caregivers are experiencing in their personal lives – loss of confidence for example – is something many caregivers experience regularly and can hold them back from career progression. 

We asked our LIVE coaching panel for advice to give other leaders and managers who are managing capable and competent people who suddenly make mistakes and lose their confidence through struggling to manage their career and care for others. 

Samara Dobbins, Deputy Secretary, People & Operations at Department of Premier and Cabinet (NSW) recalls that when her daughter was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome people didn’t know how to react and managers didn’t know how to support her:  

A weird thing happens when you have a child with a diagnosis and everyone rings and says what can I do to help.? You just don’t know what to say.” 

“So help the person out and just do something. Just turn up with something. Just say: “You are taking a week off”. Don’t pussy foot around it or shy away from talking about it. 

If someone looks like they’re struggling they probably are.”

Zoe Weston balances emergency foster care with being Manager Practice and Permanency for New England, Department Communities & Justice. She feels sharing vulnerability and demonstrating a safe space is the answer to positive role modelling as a leader and carer:  

“As a leader I’ve been working on my vulnerability and being able to share that. We’re all vulnerable in some way. We’re all needing compassionate workplaces. It’s not always easy to do but it’s important to share when you’re vulnerable. 

With lock down work is a full time job, caring is a full time job. We probably all felt like we weren’t doing anything well at some point and I think people are much more able to share their struggle with you if you can share yours with them.

If you’re a manager or a leader you need to demonstrate your vulnerability to demonstrate that it’s a safe space to share theirs.” 

Andrew Parkinson is Director Communications at DPIE and cares for his wife who has been diagnosed with  frontal lobe dementia and suspected motor neurone disease has seen the experience of becoming a carer as a huge benefit to his ability to empathise as a leader:  

“I think I’m a different person, leader and colleague than I would have been if this challenge didn’t exist. I always think, `What can I learn from this experience and apply when I’m trying to be compassionate towards others?’

Whether you’re a manager or a carer, take it easy on yourself, you’re facing a tough enough challenge with the care. Just be kind to yourself.” 

Grace Papers CEO and founder Prue Gilbert added some further tips for managing these tricky situations. 

“Often for carers, behind that loss of confidence is also a fear of losing their job which is in addition to the pressures they’re under.

As manager or a colleague, remind them that neither they, nor anybody else is expecting them to hold it together all the time and make a point of drawing their attention to the things they are doing well. 

Be kind, reduce the pressure and ensure they understand what paid time off they are eligible for, and that it’s not just for caring for others – care for self is critical. 

Don’t aim for perfection, and remind them that they don’t have to believe in themselves all the time – that as their boss/peers, you’re doing it for them. They just have to believe that in those hard periods, they could contribute a little bit, and then a little bit more. 

When they mess up, say things like “How could you keep anything going with all you’re going through? “ 

And best of all – challenge their self criticism with encouragement such as:  “Really? I thought you made a good point and that helped us to get to the end goal.” 

Empathy is nice, but encouragement is better.”

Explore Grace Papers Care for yourself while caring for others activity to understand more.