Talk to a colleague about their wellbeing


LawCare offers tips for how to help a colleague who is frequently anxious, short-tempered or low and depressed.

Reaching out to a colleague in need

If you are working with someone who appears to be struggling, consider asking your colleague in private what is wrong and how you might help. Talking to a colleague in this way can be difficult but it is not necessary to be an expert in mental health to start a conversation of this nature. It’s important to remember that a conversation could make all the difference to your colleague’s wellbeing.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Find a suitable place, ideally outside of the office such as a café or go for a walk.
  • The conversation could be started with a simple “How are you?” Once a person knows they are being given the space and time to talk, they often will.
  • Actively listen to the person, and give them your undivided attention. Keep your phone on silent and refrain from looking at your watch.
  • Don’t interrupt - try to leave any questions or comments you may have until the person has finished. 
  • Ask open questions: “What support do you have in place?”, “What would you like to happen in this situation?”
  • Use positive body language, and encourage the person to continue with small verbal comments like “I see” or “what happened next?”
  • Check your understanding by paraphrasing what the person has said back to them.
  • Respond by using empathetic statements such as: “I appreciate this must be difficult for you…”
  • Avoid clichés. Comments like “pull yourself together” or “what will be, will be” are not helpful.
  • Don’t make the conversation about you: avoid saying things like “I know how you feel” or “The same thing happened to me.”
  • The important thing is to listen, rather than give advice - the individual needs to be able to act for themselves.
  • Be reassuring and signpost them towards support such as LawCare, HR, another colleague or their GP.

Contact us

If you are worried about a colleague, you can call the LawCare helpline for advice on 1800 991 801, 9am-7.30pm weekdays, 10am-4pm week-ends and bank holidays. The helpline is free, independent and confidential. For more information, visit the LawCare website.


This article originally appeared in the August 2018 Law Society eZine. For more information, and to subscribe, see eNewsletters.