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What to do When a Colleague is Struggling

When you are spending most of your time with a group of people each and every day you will notice that bonds will form and these friendships could last a lifetime. These relationships are very important because you all spend so much time together, so getting along will not only make the time enjoyable but make it go much faster.  You will laugh together, share experiences and crack a few jokes here and there not to mention complain about the boss every now and again. Colleagues can even turn into your personal friends if you take the relationship to that stage. You may find yourself visiting a museum display over the weekend or marking down that future exhibition showcase you want to visit with each other. Think of working with someone you can’t stand or don’t get along with and how long those days would last, I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Building strong relationships with those around you will help work feel a lot less like work.

You may come to know more about your co-workers and their personal lives like what they do in their spare time, how many people are in their family and what their passions are outside of the four walls of work.

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What happens when a colleague ends up dealing with a personal crisis? Whether a co-worker is going through suffering an illness, going through a nasty divorce or dealing with other problems within their family or perhaps they are dealing with money problems. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to help them and just what the right way to respond is. This is why it is important to learn how to communicate and be able to find yourself as a person of stability for those who are struggling around you. This is where the development of communication skills are essential in a workplace or office.

You may feel close to this person and it is natural to feel you need to inquire about what is going on and then try to find ways to help them ease the stress. However, here there are still professional boundaries that you need to keep to. There is a line between supporting the colleagues and also respecting their employee privacy, that they are entitled too, at the time as well.

Show your approachable

People want to feel acknowledged at times in need and some people like to be comforted, every single person is different so don’t make any assumptions. It can be a challenge to figure out just how to give off the support in the right way. When you have no idea what to say remember the little things like saying sorry for their loss can mean so much to someone. Just offering an ear to listen can be all that is needed and a friendly smile. If you persist with details about their situation this can steer them away. It may be smart to also verbally make them aware that you are available to chat. Try phrases such as; “I’m here if you need to talk” or “If you need anything, I am here”.

Don’t Offer Uninvited Advice

It can be tempting to play the therapist and offer out advice to the person dealing with the problem but you need to ensure you are supportive and not preaching especially if you have been in that similar place before. You are wanting to make the colleague feel cared for and comfortable without your recommendations. If the person actually specifically asks for your advice, then you should feel free to offer them advice you believe to be helpful. Avoid offering any legal advice and instead advise them to seek professional help from an employment lawyer if it is an issue with the company.

Offer help in different ways

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Don’t just use the most vague of statements such as, “let me know what I can do” these can be a burden and a struggling co-worker then has to think of ideas in ways you can help. We are not saying that these sayings are completely useless, it’s just good to be able to help in other, more powerful ways. More often than not your co-worker will feel uncomfortable asking for your help, imagine if you were in the same position as them. It is time to be proactive show you are happy to help in other ways like when you go pick up some lunch ask if they want a meal or to come with you. If you know they are heading out to see a client ask if they would like you to go instead, little things like these can make a huge difference in someone’s everyday life. These are simple gestures that are more likely to have a co-worker accept when you ask rather than leaving it up to them to ask when they feel like it.

The Boundaries Out of Your Control

It is quite plausible and expected that the company you and your struggling co-worker work for has a policy or some guidelines to follow when an employee is struggling. You may want to brush up on these by speaking to your Human Resources manager before offering any help as it may be something that you may not be allowed to do. It is important to keep in mind that there are endless situations and scenarios that your co-worker could be going through and a large number of them can’t be helped by other people. An example of a situation or scenario that you may not actually be able to help with could be employment support or even the process of job search assistance. It would be a conflict of interest if you were to help a co-worker seek a new job within the same industry, if they were to join a competitor your job may be at a risk as you have helped another company gain a valuable asset. Remember, at the end of the day you should not put yourself at risk to help another person. It is your lively-hood and bank account that can take a massive hit if there is a dispute between the company and your co-worker, so be smart.

Supporting your colleague who is going through these types of problems can be a tricky thing to navigate sometimes but remember when you reach out to them to offer as much support as you can. You need to be honouring the co-workers boundaries and let them tell you as much as they want to disclose.



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