After a brutal year in mining for some, are you OK?


2019 was, for many people in mining, a brutal year. So with the new year upon us, it’s a good time not just to reflect on our years, but to ask others how they’re coping.

So, are you OK?

This is a wonderful question to be asking at this time of year.

For many people in senior leadership roles in the mining industry, Christmas and New Year’s are a period for taking time away from our desks – as financial markets turn off and corporate offices empty out. Famously, this time of year is also a period of reflection, which can also bring an increased emphasis on losses that may have occurred. As a result, some people will experience increased levels of loneliness, sadness and depression.

This year in particular the mining industry experienced a lot of deal making, which usually means for every winner there are often several losers. Additionally, we saw many commissioning delays, and in some cases total failures, leading to financial difficulties and collapses.

From my time on the board of a publicly listed recruitment and labour hire company (which listed on the ASX in January 2008 – ouch!) I know how suffocating and stressful these periods can be, particularly if the fight for survival is long and drawn out.


A release valve and a vacuum

This time of year can act like a release valve, which in turn creates a vacuum into which all manner of reflections can flow. This can be a good thing, as it provides an opportunity to process some of the feelings that accompany these thoughts.

However, this only works if you acknowledge the thoughts.

So, when someone asks you, “how are you going?”, avoid the automatic response, “good thanks” or “not bad”. Think about the question for a little while and answer honestly. Perhaps even have a more honest answer ready: “All in all, I’m well thanks ­­– but it has been a tough year and I am tired”.

I just made this up, of course, and while it is not overly dramatic, it acknowledges what has gone on. It is also more likely to start an honest conversation, which provides you and the other person with an opportunity to process some of the difficult stuff that has gone before.

All manner of counsellors will tell us that until we somehow acknowledge what has happened to us, and process it, our ability to think with clarity and be effective will be impaired.    

On the flip side, if you are the one asking the question, perhaps pose it in a way that is likely to draw out a more considered response? For example:

  • How was your year?
  • Have you got here in good shape?
  • How are you feeling personally after the year just gone?

Or, if you’re really brave and have the right relationship, ask: are you OK?

For those with a deeper interest in this topic, I have also previously written about it more extensively in a mining industry context.


Some quick thank yous

To all of my readers this past year, I thank you for your continued interest and your messages of support (and the occasional challenge). My aim is to deliver practical and valuable observations on the themes of mining, business, recruitment, people and personal development, for senior managers and leaders – and I look forward to continuing to do so into 2020.

And yes, I do feel tired. So, lastly, on behalf of anyone you ask the question, “are you OK?”, thank you. 

Happy New Year.  

Steve Heather