Everyone faces struggles in life. The support we have to overcome them has a significant impact on how successfully we overcome our issues. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to help a coworker when they’re experiencing difficulty. Because the brain is wired to pick up on the emotional states of people around you, doing what you can to help someone else benefits everyone.
Use these 4 suggestions to assist a struggling coworker.
1. Connect with Your Coworker
Establish a connection with the coworker who’s struggling (link to post on contributing to workplace culture) . Find a quiet moment to privately ask how they’re doing. Begin with a neutral question that encourages the person to open up. Something along the line of how you noticed they don’t seem like their usual self and would like to help is appropriate. If the person doesn’t want to talk, respect their privacy. If they open up, maintain engagement in what they say.
2. Show Empathy
Demonstrate empathy when talking with your coworker. Remain calm and reassuring while listening to them. Validate the person’s experiences and feelings. They may say they feel overwhelmed, worried, or stuck. Repeat what you hear being stated. Show that you understand your coworker’s point of view. Remain neutral while validating their struggle. Keep the person comfortable opening up to you. Honor their boundaries with how much they want to disclose. Maintain a balance of support and respect.
3. Uncover the Cause
Act as a coach for your coworker to get to the reasons why they feel as they do. Common stressors include an overwhelming workload, uncertainty of how to move forward with a project, or interpersonal conflict. Ask questions to probe deeper to the source of the issue. Encourage the person to talk about their feelings and what triggered them.
4. Work Toward Solutions
Help your coworker find ways to overcome their challenge. If their workload is too heavy, discuss their priorities. Clarify which one or two tasks need to be completed first. Find out how the person plans to approach them. Write down the steps to make them more tangible. Ask what your coworker can get help finishing. If they are unsure how to get started on a project, talk through the steps needed to complete it. Reinforce the person’s good ideas while suggesting strategies for more difficult areas. Perhaps they worked on similar projects, or a colleague would have ideas for how to proceed. If your coworker has an interpersonal conflict, constructively reframe the situation (link to post on reinforcing positive workplace culture). Break it down into manageable pieces. Talk with the person to create a plan of action.
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