What can I do when I know a colleague is struggling?

Its ok to not be ok graphic

We’ve been talking about talking in the last few weeks. But what do you do when someone wants, or needs, to talk to you?

1. Firstly, do not be concerned. Just keep calm and concentrate fully on what is being said. Find somewhere private to sit and, if you can, keep yourself at a similar level to the person – i.e. if they are sitting, you sit too. Make sure phones and distractions are avoided and that nothing interrupts the conversation. Make eye contact and smile (even if they are not). Help them feel comfortable with you so that they can speak honestly. 

2. Then simply focus, relax and listen as carefully as you can. There is no need to speak. Be patient and tolerant: give the person time to express their thoughts. Try to put yourself in their shoes and remember not to judge. Avoid assumptions and trying to resolve the issue for them. Keep an open mind, after all, we all have different maps of the world! 

When you listen well you will hear the words, but you will also recognise other signals (body language, emotions etc) – often more important than words in allowing you to understand the whole picture.

When you do all this, and give the person the space they need to speak, you will be doing many things:

  • Building trust and respect: using active listening skills shows the other person you care and are interested in what they are saying. People are more likely to come to you when they trust you.
  • Building honesty and openness: by engaging with the person through non-verbal communication skills such as eye contact, leaning in or nodding your head, they know you are truly interested. People are more likely to talk openly if they know you are listening.
  • Getting a better understanding of the real issue, situation or need: by listening you are allowing yourself to gain insight from what they have to say and more able to support them.
  • Reducing conflict, anger and resentment: by listening and not making assumptions you can calm the situation.

3. Once you understand what is going on you are in the best place to support the person.
Get to know what the Trust offers, below, and ensure you leave the person with any appropriate information they might need.

If you think that the person is at immediate risk then act immediately. 

  • Tell the person what you are doing and don’t leave them on their own if you can avoid it.
  • The Crisis Line, 0808 196 2370, is the best source of support in this case: you can call on behalf of the person and pass the phone to them.

 Speak to someone you trust

Whether that’s family, friends, work colleagues or your line manager.
You can also contact the EEAST Being Well Team: wellbeing@eastamb.nhs.uk

Call the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) on 0808 196 2374.

You, or your immediate family, can contact the EAP to discuss all types of personal issues (financial, parenting, caring and so on), on a confidential basis.     

Call the EEAST Crisis Line on 0808 196 2370
When life gets too tough: you don’t know what to do or who to turn to.


And finally, if you find it difficult to cope with the conversation you have had make sure you find someone to speak to yourself.

Published 18th March 2021