Juggling on a tightrope: Experiences of small and micro business managers responding to employees with mental health difficulties

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This article presents findings from an in-depth qualitative study focused exclusively on the first-hand experiences of small and micro businesses managers who have responded to employees with mental health difficulties. Despite growing policy focus on workplace mental health, empirical research evidence on management experiences of responding to mental health issues in a small or micro business context is rare. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 21 UK-based small and micro business managers who described 45 individual employee cases, we examine how managers traverse a support-performance continuum, and use a tension-based lens to analyse the tensions that managers experienced. We examine three key tensions for small and micro business managers that surfaced when responding to employees with mental health problems: (1) Individual vs Collective; (2) Confidence vs Caution; (3) Informal vs Formal. Our analysis exposes how managers handle tensions when managing at the nexus of support and performance and contributes a deeper understanding of the dynamics and challenges of managing mental health problems in small and micro businesses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-34
Number of pages32
JournalInternational small business journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022


  • human resource management, mental health, occupational health, qualitative research, small and microbusiness
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

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