The legal industry can be extremely stressful. The combination of nurturing your business, dealing with worrying global issues, and even going through a personal crisis can contribute to a coworkers difficult day. When working with people everyday, forming a bond is natural. In this article we’ll address how best to approach a coworkers’ stress.
If a coworker is experiencing a stressful situation, it can be difficult to go to work each day. Having no or few outlets for their stress can be taxing and potentially show in the quality of their work. Listening to your coworkers means a lot more than letting them talk. Take note of how they conduct themselves on a daily basis. If you see something out of the ordinary or is grounds for concern, ask them if they’d like to speak in private. If they take you up on this offer, it can be tempting to try to make this time “productive”. Don’t try to be their solution or even to make them feel better. Be present. Be respectfully inquisitive. Be empathetic. Most of the time people just need someone to listen.
If your coworker confides they are dealing with an issue that is beyond your professional expertise, it is best to have some resources on hand to help. Some larger firms may already have counseling assistance programs to help lawyers face a difficult situation. However, if you are a part of a smaller firm, those programs may not be put in place:
- Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAPs) are state-run programs designed to help legal professionals deal with substance abuse and mental health issues.
- You may find a podcast to be of benefit.
- Perhaps you’ve read a book or article that helped you!
It can be easy to take on someone else’s stress, especially when you’ve connected on a personal issue. Understanding empathy (not sympathy) is best for both of you is important.
When speaking with your coworker, make sure you set your own boundaries before they have to be defended. Let them know how you’d like to focus the conversation, why you suggested it, and, whenever needed, gently decline in depth involvement. This conversation is about them, and allowing them to voice their struggles. If you feel inclined to share a relevant experience of your own and you think it would help, feel free.