It is very difficult for someone to ask for help and support when they are feeling stressed at work, so how can you support them?
Recruitment is a high pressure business to work in and there may be times when that pressure can create stress for an individual. Looking for a job or changing roles can also be stressful for candidates.
Recruiters you don’t have to be an expert to provide help and support to someone who is stressed. Just being there for them can make a big difference to how they feel, whether they are a work colleague, a candidate or a business contact.
So how can you help and support someone who is stressed at work?
Pay attention and be there for others. How often do you notice how others are behaving? If you are busy at work you can become very self and task focused and not notice what is going on for other people, but if you pay attention to how other people are you may notice that someone is stressed or struggling to cope.
Recognise the symptoms and signs of stress. What are the symptoms and signs that someone may be feeling stressed? There are many different physical, behavioural, cognitive and emotional symptoms of stress. You may notice they are looking unwell or tired, not eating properly or not caring for themselves. They may have mood swings, are withdrawn, have lost their sense of humour, are easily irritated, short tempered, cannot concentrate, are agitated, can’t switch off, are indecisive or error prone. They may have become emotional or very negative about everything. It may not be something specific, but they just seem to be different to how they normally are.
Try and engage the person in conversation. A simple ‘How are you?’ may get a response or try something like ‘You don’t seem like your normal self. Shall we have a coffee and a chat?’ or maybe something more direct such as ‘You seem very stressed, what can I do to help you?’ This can be difficult to do but it could be the start of them getting help. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this then tell another colleague, your boss, HR or someone else that you think the person is stressed and struggling and ask them to speak to the person.
Acknowledge you have noticed they are stressed and are worried about them. Explain to the person that you are worried about them as they seem stressed. This may help them to feel that someone is there for them and to make sense of how they are feeling. They may not want to talk to you any further, but this is okay.
Encourage them to talk. Try and encourage the person to talk about how they are feeling as this may help them start to feel better. You can also reflect back what they are saying to help them understand where they are e.g. They say ‘I have felt the pressure increasing for some time and now I am struggling to cope’ and you say ‘It sounds like you have felt the pressure increasing for some time and now you are struggling to cope’.
Give your time and really listen. Once you have enabled the person to talk you don’t want to impose time limits on the conversation. Don’t try and solve anything for them just allow them to talk.
Help them gain perspective. Try focusing on the positives as well as the stress as when someone is stressed they become very negative focused and everything seems bad. Offer help and support and be there for them and remind them that there are always choices and options.
Don’t get out of your depth. It can feel uncomfortable listening to someone who is stressed but talking will help them make sense of the situation. If you don’t feel confident to have the conversation, then go and get someone else e.g. someone more senior or HR who you feel can help.
Try to understand the causes. Whilst listening to the person you may pick up on what is causing them to feel stressed. You can ask open questions to help them explore what the causes are e.g. When do you feel the most stressed? You can summarise what you think the causes are e.g. ‘From what you have said it sounds like x and y are contributing to you feeling stressed’. This may help them realise what the causes are. Try not to push the person or be intrusive.
Encourage action. For a person to really feel less stressed they need to take some action on the root causes of their stress. Gently encourage the person to think about what they could do and what action they could take. To begin with one small action is enough e.g. they may decide to discuss it with their boss or their partner. You don’t need to give any solutions just support them to think about what they could do.
Suggest they speak to someone who may be able to help. You are not an expert on stress and you should not try and be an expert or get yourself into a situation you cannot cope with. At any stage you can suggest that they speak to someone who may be able to help them e.g. their boss, HR, their partner, a doctor, a counsellor or other forms of help.
Hopefully the above tips and ideas will help you to think about how you may be able to support someone at work who is stressed.