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Stressed Coworker: 5 Ways to Keep a Good Relationship

jean pierre fumey



Stressed colleague

Stress in the workplace is not a new thing. It’s possible that one of the colleagues sitting beside you is stressed. Likely at some point, this will affect you in some way.

So should you ignore your coworker to avoid the direct or indirect effect? Well, this is an option, but it’s not the best. There are several ways of helping your coworker manage their stress and still keep a good relationship.

Helping them is better because stress can spread. After all, the human brain is wired in a way that it can pick up what is happening in your surroundings, including the emotional states of others.

However, always remember that you’re not the stressed person even as you get too close, so don’t mirror your coworker’s stress.

Here is how you can help, establish and keep a good relationship with a stressed coworker.

Establish a Connection

Do you suspect that your colleague is stressed? If so, find a quiet moment and ask how she is doing. This might not be easy, especially if she is the sort that frequently gets upset or angry. Be cautious, sensitive, tactful, and talk in private.

It’s important to begin with a neutral question to avoid provoking her, but that encourages her to open up. Respect her privacy if she is unwilling to share and assure her that you’re always there when she needs to talk.

On the other hand, listen empathically when she opens up. Avoid the temptation to judge; instead, get engaged in the conversation and show that you care. Knowing that somebody is ready to listen can help to ease the burden of stress and build a strong relationship.

Find Out the Source of the Problem

Many things can cause at the workplace. They include preparing monthly sales reports, difficult relationships at home or work, personal loss, or grief.

You can only help a coworker when you know what their problem is. Ask her open questions to encourage her to speak about the issue, what she feels about it, and what triggers those feelings.

If the problem stems from workload, then that means she has a lot of work that she can’t cope with. If it’s related to competency, she must be feeling incapable of completing her job because she lacks the necessary skills to successfully carry out her duties.

At times, work-related stress may be all about relationships or the feeling that other colleagues or supervisors are aggressive, hostile, and unhelpful.

Stress may not always originate from work, it may also stem from home, and with this, you have to be more sensitive and tactful.

Be a friend

While you can’t go picking your coworker’s problems because it can be stressful, you offer them support. Why not make your stressed colleague coffee or bring her a snack and sit with them as they take it. This tells them that you care and available when they need to talk.

You may offer to walk together as you talk things over or discuss the problem. Getting out of a stressful situation such as an office helps both of you get some exercise and fresh air, which can alleviate stress. Further, such an act will help cement your friendship and maintain a good relationship.

At times their stress might be persistent and severe, which you can’t handle alone. That means the stressed coworker has to seek assistance from the company’s employee assistance program or get professional help from external support networks.

Find a Practical Way forward

As mentioned, the source of your coworker’s stress may be work-related or not. For stress caused by workload, you can help your colleague to get organized and draw a to-do list. They can work on tasks based on their priority and break down time-consuming ones into manageable chunks.

Still, there may be low-priority tasks that are not highly specialized. You may offer to assist if you have the capacity and time or ask her to delegate to others in their team. This should be done in discussion with their seniors since they are the ones that assign these responsibilities.

A person can feel out of her depth in the office because of stress, which can be debilitating and demoralizing. You can commend her for tasks she did in the past, help her to identify genuine skills gaps, and encourage her to discuss them with her manager.

Still, she could be getting stressed because of an awkward client, bullying manager, or a sarcastic coworker. Such individuals can cause her stress to spike when she interacts with them. While not taking sides, try to reframe the behavior of the sarcastic colleague.

Stressed worker's Manager

However, encourage your coworker to seek additional assistance, possibly from her line manager or HR, if she thinks she is being harassed, bullied, or treated unfairly. You can offer to go with her if she is not confident about discussing the problem with her seniors or still speak up on her behalf.

Seek her consent when you opt to speak on her behalf because your goal is to help your stressed coworker and keep a good relationship in the end. Otherwise, your help may be regarded as a breach of trust and can add to her stress.

Avoid Getting Too Involved

While supporting your colleague can greatly ease the burden, it can also deplete your reserves of patience, capability, capacity, energy, time, and more.

You can only listen, think, and advise without feeling up to a certain degree, but this burden will overload you after that. If you’re not careful, getting too involved in your coworkers’ issues can drag you down and start to drive a wedge between you.

So as much as you want the best possible outcome, you shouldn’t sacrifice your wellbeing. Your colleague’s stress can affect your health and your relationship with others, so seek professional help if the stress is robbing both of you of happiness.


Regardless of what is the root of your coworker’s stress, your goal should be to help them identify it, eliminate it and maintain a good relationship. In the event that it’s not possible to eliminate the source of her stress, then try to come up with ways to reduce it so that she can remain productive.

Take a walk as you talk, discuss their to-do list, assist in completing some of her tasks whenever possible, encourage her to seek additional help from your seniors or professions if the problem persists and contribute to their unhappiness.

Jean-Pierre is a polyglot communication specialist, freelance journalist, and writer for with over two decades of experience in media and public relations. He creates engaging content, manages communication campaigns, and attends conferences to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. He brings his wealth of experience and expertise to provide insightful analysis and engaging content for's audience.

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