How To Support An Upset Co-Worker-The Super Fantastic Leadership Show


169: How to Support an Upset Co-Worker

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We are talking about being with an upset co-worker; someone who is stuck for a minute. And actually, how to support them. Also, how to do this if they are particularly upset with you?!                                                                                                                                                                

First of all, what do we mean by “upset?” Likely, they are having some feelings…about something; it could look like frustration or annoyance or sadness or any myriad of emotion.

Eww…emotions at work? Yes, so this is one of the biggest areas where we start to feel uncomfortable. Frustration seems to be an ok emotion in the workplace but we don’t have much room for other ones, such as sadness and fear.

The first thing to recognize is that your co-worker is having an experience. Yes, an experience. And that is all that is. What we also need to know, is that it is going to be easy for us to get caught up in the “story” about “why” someone is upset. We will want to know more about the story and more about the story of why this person is upset. This all comes from wanting to solve the issue of them being upset so that we don’t need to feel so uncomfortable.  We believe, essentially, that if we know the “story” then we can solve the issue.

Which leads to the next issue;  we will want to give advice and tell the person how to fix their problem so they are not upset. Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing however, if the person hasn’t felt heard and hasn’t asked for advice, typically it isn’t helpful. Listening and “being with” really matters when someone is upset.

The big things to do:

  • First, hold your story lightly and be willing to check it out
  • Second, allow the person to be heard; what is it that they really want?
  • Third, do your best to avoid taking it personally


What has worked well for you when a co-worker is upset? How have you handled it?

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