Helping a Distressed Colleague

A coworker is often first to observe signs of distress or trouble. Be aware of the following indicators of distress. Early recognition, intervention and referral are keys to getting someone help. Look for patterns or changes in behavior, not just isolated symptoms.

When to Be Concerned

  • Dramatic changes in personal hygiene, work performance or social behavior
  • Isolation or withdrawal, alienating members of their support systems
  • Excessive fatigue/sleep disturbance
  • Intoxication, hangovers or smelling of alcohol
  • Disoriented or seeming “out of it”
  • Garbled, tangential, disconnected or slurred speech

Signs and Symptoms of Distress

  • Self-disclosure of personal distress, such as family problems or financial difficulties, or talk of grief or suicide
  • Unusual/disproportional emotional response to events
  • Colleagues expressing fear, concern or worry about a coworker
  • Irritability or unusual apathy

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Unprovoked anger, hostility or aggressive behavior
  • Physical violence (shoving, grabbing, assault)
  • Implying or making a direct threat to harm self or others
  • Stalking or harassing behavior
  • Making threats via email, text or phone
  • Extreme anxiety or panic
  • Talk of guns or other dangerous, violent topics

What You Can Do

If you find yourself worried or alarmed about an employee who is troubled or distressed, you have resources:

  • Contact Human Resources or Ombudsman
  • Submit a BIT Report
  • Speak with your supervisor or manager