Don’t Make Your Stressed-Out Colleague More Stressed Out

Posted on: January 31st, 2017 by bobmorris


Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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When we see a coworker at their limit, we want to help. But even when our intentions are good, we can make things worse. This is a time when it pays to be careful with your words and know what not to say.

o Avoid talking about yourself and past situations when you dealt with stress. When someone is at their wit’s end, they don’t want to hear about your trials; they’re too focused on their own.

o Be careful not to minimize their situation. Don’t say things like: “Don’t worry about it,” “That’s nothing,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “Get over it.”

o Instead, say, “You can handle this,” and offer an example of a time they were able to bounce back from a tough situation. Then ask them, “What would help?”

o If the reply is “nothing” or “I don’t know,” sit quietly for 15 seconds (the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” in your head.) This quiet time could help them come up with their own solutions.

The goal isn’t to cure someone’s stress, but to help them lessen it in the moment.

This Tip was adapted from “What Not to Say to a Stressed-Out Colleague,” by Holly Weeks.

To check out that HBR article and join the discussion, please click here.

Also, you may wish to check out an anthology, Management Tips from Harvard Business Review, by clicking here.

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