We all come across these colleagues occasionally. People who are completely stressed-out, to the point that they're snapping at others, putting off decisions, and are just scattered. Some of these folks seem to live their lives in this state (and enjoy it?) and for others, it's an unusual occurrence when things just pile up too much.
We've all been there, but working with an over-stressed person presents different challenges than being said person. At first, you might avoid them and keep your head down, hoping they'll sort it out. But when a co-worker is stressed and unable to find a way out, it starts affecting their work, your work and the overall morale of the team. In these cases, you can take a leadership approach and help them get that stress back under control and focus properly on the tasks-at-hand.
Approaching a strained person can make matters much worse if done insensitively. There is truth to that witty social media meme that says "Never in the history of calm down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down." Here are a few steps you can take:
Start by checking yourself that you're not being judgmental. Everybody reacts differently and manages different emotions. Keep that all in mind before moving too much further.
Acknowledge the person's stress and ask if you can help. If they say no, respect that.
Start by listening carefully. Sometimes people just need to vent and put the situation into perspective.
Continue listening and asking questions to help uncover the root of the stress, as well as consequences the person may be worrying about, again, to put things into perspective.
Help the person solve those root problems with practical solutions. Offer to step-in where it makes sense.
Encourage your colleague to take some time to relax with a walk or meditation, giving them time to reconnect with the present moment.
Don't get too involved yourself. Stress is contagious and your own mental health needs to stay intact. It's great to help, but don't let it bring you down.
Most importantly, remain positive and keep calm yourself. If the person refused your help back in Step 2, maintaining that approachable and friendly demeanor is what will bring them to you for assistance when they're ready.
Stressed out team members, colleagues, clients, recruiters, or family can all affect your life and career, as they bring down both attitude and productivity. You can't keep avoiding them so the next best step is to help where you can. But while that's all nice, remember, you're not a trained psychiatrist and it's certainly not your job to deal with other people's stress-levels. It's great to help, but everything must be balanced. How do you deal with the people in your life who are showing signs of excessive stress?