Close this search box.
Close this search box.

When CEO Depression And Anxiety Trickle Down Into A Company

CEOs experience at least as much anxiety — or more — as anyone else in the company, and it is critical to be aware when depression or anxiety impacts their lives.

Depression and anxiety are common among CEOs. Some researchers estimate the rate of depression for business leaders at double the rate of the general population. In 2008, former Fortune 500 CEO Philip Burguieres estimated that 50% of CEOs, at some time in their lives, experience depression.


CEOs experience at least as much anxiety — or more — as anyone else in the company, and it is critical to be aware when depression or anxiety impacts their lives. Not only can this impact judgment and decision-making, but depression and anxiety can also trickle down into the company. This issue is especially important now, as depressionanxiety and suicide are all on the rise.


The trickle-down effect of depression and anxiety can have profound consequences on the top management team and the employees they are managing. To decrease this trickle-down effect, CEOs may be well advised to do the following:


1. Talk about it. Discuss mental health openly at work and create a culture of empathy, support and open, anonymous reporting about this.


Emotions can spread biologically. Even if the CEO is not overtly exhibiting sadness or anxiety, our brains are wired so that those around us can pick up on our emotions. That’s because we all have mirror neurons that are sensitized to reflect the emotions of others.


Depression and anxiety disrupt leader empathy. When CEOs are depressed, they might overreact to the distress of others. This makes others less comfortable about sharing their feelings. This shutdown starts to spread and defines the culture.


2. Extend assistance. Offer employees support such as behavioral health screening programs.


When workers are less productive, execution on strategies might be slowed and products might be delayed in coming to market. For instance, when depression presents as anger, this can disrupt thinking and increase accident rates at work, thereby disrupting work patterns and productivity. Also, if the trickle-down effect gets to the customer-facing people at work, customers’ mirror neurons will pick up this depression or anxiety, too. While a certain amount of moodiness or anxiety might make people more creative, too much depression and anxiety can shut down creativity in the workforce. Customers will sense this in the quality of products, too.


3. Take your workplace temperature. Check in with the chief human resources officer about how your own mood and the mood of the organization are faring.


Depression makes it difficult to see things from others’ points of view. When CEOs are depressed, they find it difficult to walk in anyone else’s shoes. For instance, they might not understand the impact of work overload on another person. This misunderstanding can also spread throughout the organization, where everyone’s sensitivity to others is reduced.


You will notice this trickle-down effect when you notice that the mood of the entire organization is changing. People dread coming to work. They are jittery or gloomy. They avoid the CEO. And depression and anxiety can increase absenteeism. In some instances, people might show up to work but not be present enough to work productively.


4. Have your employees’ backs. Devise an online platform for anonymous reports on depression or anxiety within the organization , as well as anxiety relief technics shared among all the employees.


The trickle-down does not respect age, gender, social class or role in the company. But those people with genetic vulnerabilities to depression or anxiety and those with multiple other stressors might also be more susceptible to this trickle-down effect. Eventually, this can impact customers as well.


If CEOs pay close attention to the trickle-down effect, they can prevent the emotional and financial costs of depression and anxiety in the workplace.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.