Helping a Co-Worker
How can you help when a co-worker is either a participant in or witness to a traumatic event? It may feel awkward; you may have your own feelings about the event to cope with. Most likely you just don’t know what to say.
Here are some suggestions on how to be supportive
- Acknowledge the event. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Offer yourself as someone they can talk to.
- Don’t ask a lot of detailed questions, it may feel intrusive. If your co-worker is ready to talk, just listen. If not, don’t push. Just let them know you’re available.
- Be aware of the need for long-term support. People recover from trauma in their own way and in their own time. For example, a year may seem long enough but often a first anniversary of an event is a very difficult time.
- Help with the re-entry process. You may have concerns about your co-worker’s ability to return to work. Try to focus on offering practical support, i.e. offer extra breaks.
- Watch for signs or symptoms of stress. Reactions such as anger or crying are normal. But if they seem abnormally upset for more than two to three weeks, contact the CISM coordinator for help.
- 202-505-CISM (2476)
Examples of what to say:
- Would you like to talk?
- This must be really difficult / painful for you.
- Don’t worry about work when you’re not here.
- We’re glad to have you back.
Examples of what not to say:
- I understand how you feel.
- What happened? You’ll feel better if you talk.
- When this happened to me…
(Everyone is handles stress differently. It is always better to listen than to tell your own story.)