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News Sept. 7, 2023

What are the basics of helping an employee in distress?

It is common for people to experience issues such as anxiety and depression at work, so you want to be prepared to handle the conversation if an employee approaches you for help.

Harvard Business Review offers the following steps you can take if an employee comes to you with signs of emotional distress.

  • Acknowledge. Recognize your employee’s distress. When you acknowledge his or her feelings, it will validate the employee’s emotions and increase awareness of his or her mood. Ask the employee to reflect on his or her emotional, physical, mental and behavioral states at work; emphasize the reflection can happen privately without you.
  • Respond. Although you should not provide therapy or counseling, you can apply therapeutic relationship skills; for example, empathy can help the employee feel more understood.
  • Present strategies. Cognitive reframing is a process that can help replace unhelpful thoughts with a more realistic, balanced view of a situation. Additionally, behavioral activation is a tool that can help activate a positive emotional state by increasing opportunities to experience joy.
  • Do not overstep. Although you can help the employee take the first step regarding his or her mental health, be prepared to direct the employee to professional mental health services and resources.

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