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What to Do When a Colleague Needs Emotional Support in the Office

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This story appears in the February 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While coworkers are close physically, we are not often close emotionally. But when one of us experiences a personal crisis, we are forced into unfamiliar roles -- and this distance can be awkward and, at least for the aggrieved, unhelpful. Professional relationships are anchored by hierarchy, politics, obligation. Emotional support needs waters that aren’t muddy. It requires purity and simplicity. And to achieve those things you need enough humility to understand that your job is not to alleviate the burdens of grief. Your job is to alleviate the burdens of work.

Paul Sahre

First thing: Acknowledge the hardship. This is most of it. This is the point. And yes, it’s hard. I think the main anxiety we have comes from talking to people who may not want to talk. So…email. Really. But don’t avoid looking at the person when you pass in the hallway. Really. The problem isn’t reaching out; it’s that we try to do too much. And “too much” is what the aggrieved is already experiencing. Don’t add too much on top of too much. Don’t demand information by asking “How are you doing?” or “What can I do?”

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