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Work, high-performance needs, and a demanding pace inevitably become overwhelming at the office. Occasionally, an employee may have a meltdown due to work stress or emotional baggage from their personal life. Either one can cause a volatile or unpleasant situation in the workplace when an employee responds poorly to the circumstances. Be prepared with some actionable steps to assist them.
Here are ways to offer support:
1. Don’t ignore the meltdown happened.
Emotional problems are difficult because they make us feel vulnerable and remind us of our own shortcomings. Don’t pretend like nothing happened. People often ignore the incident in order to help their coworker save face. However, this is the worst thing you can do. You’ll be seen as uncaring rather than one who took an interest during their time of need.
2. Show discretion.
Pull the person aside and talk to them one on one. Select a place to have the conversation where you can talk behind closed doors. If they feel watched by others, they will be self-conscious and less able to share their feelings freely.
3. Stay present and pay attention.
If your conversation takes longer than expected, force yourself to stay present and really listen. Regardless of the push notifications, text messages, and emails that you here dinging or buzzing, keep focused and let them wait until later. In fact, it would be a good idea to turn off any possible distractions before you start.
4. Let them speak freely.
Everyone is different. Some people want to speak freely and others need time to think through the meltdown situation. Don’t push them to talk; rather, be respectful and give them the freedom to take their time to share when ready.
5. Avoid fixing them and ask questions.
No one likes to be “fixed.” Providing solutions and ideas that they aren’t equipped to handle won’t be helpful. The person will feel ignored rather than helped. Listen intently so that you don’t appear judgmental but to have a true listening ear.
6. Think ahead and be open-minded
Your response makes a difference to diffuse the situation and to enable them to relax going forward. They won’t want to be seen as extremely emotional and unable to handle their job. Be considerate and assure them that you haven’t written them off.
After you’ve listened, ask how you can help. Be sure to follow through on the support that they request. Help them come up with a plan for what to do next.
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