When a person is struggling with intense feelings at the office, it can be hard for others to know what to do. Strong emotions are in evidence everywhere, with varying frequency, even in organizations where the culture is more rational and restrained.

The first impulse many of us have is to ignore what’s happening. We might cycle through a number of reactions. Is work the right place to express your sadness, anger, grief or whatever feelings are happening? What good could come out of weighing in? Isn’t this a giant waste of time?

More and more organizations are recognizing that we do bring our emotions to work. Doing nothing or intervening in the wrong way can be costly in terms of wasted time and inefficiency. So what’s a leader to do?

Deborah Grayson Riegel gives some sound advice in How to Talk with a Coworker Who’s Having a Tough Time. This Harvard Business Review post advises:

  1. Recognize that people need to face their feelings before they can be dealt with productively
  2. The best way for you to be helpful is to:
    1. Acknowledge the feelings
    2. Facilitate the person to reflect on what’s happening (then listen)
    3. Help emotional people figure out for themselves what is needed, the barriers and the best way forward

Notice that none of this advice includes “just buck up” or “here’s what I’d do.” The next time you’re faced with a colleague who’s having a string of really bad days, resist the urge to ignore or fix it. Instead, ask great questions and avoid judgment about the situation or feelings it has created.

Have a best practice to helping people work through strong feelings? Comment below or message us.


Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash