Do you have coworkers who always seems to be under a lot of stress? Whenever you talk to them, they tell you that they’re overwhelmed, overworked, panicky, and exhausted. Every task that they have to complete needs to be done RIGHT AWAY. And everything is an emergency.

It can be hard to work with this type of colleague. Stress is contagious, and collaborating with a stressed-out coworker can make you start to feel anxious. But it is possible to have a healthy working relationship with a panicky coworker. Author Rebecca Knight suggests that you follow these steps:

  • Be kind – It’s easy to get frustrated and annoyed with a coworker who is constantly stressed. But you should try to be understanding. You don’t know what’s going on in your coworker’s life. He or she might be dealing with a lot of stressful issues at home. So try not to be judgmental.
  • Don’t avoid it – When your coworker talks to you about feeling overworked and stressed out, don’t immediately change the subject or try to shut your coworker down by saying something like “I guess we’re all feeling stressed out these days!” Instead, let your coworker know that you’ve heard what he or she is saying, and you understand. A good response might be something as simple as “That must be so difficult.” Once you’ve acknowledged the person’s stress, you can move on to other topics.
  • Be complimentary – Pay your panicky coworker a compliment. Tell the person that you think he or she is doing good work on a certain project. Your sincere compliment will make your coworker feel more positive and empowered, and hopefully help to alleviate his or her level of stress.
  • Offer to help – If you have the time, you could offer to help your coworker with his or her current workload. But be careful not to take on too much! Be very clear about how much time you have to give, and how many tasks you can complete. Your offer to help will make your coworker feel supported, and help your coworker realize that he or she is not alone.
  • Be specific – When you need your stressed-out coworker to complete some sort of task for you, send an email that’s very brief and specific. If you need this individual to complete a larger project, break it down into doable chunks, and indicate the order in which they must be done. Try to assign the work in a way that won’t make your coworker feel confused or overwhelmed.
  • Protect yourself – If you feel like you’re getting too deeply involved in your coworker’s stress and unhappiness, distance yourself from it. Take a break from talking to that coworker and try to relax. It’s important to protect your own mental health.

Knight, R. (2017, August 7). How to work with someone who’s always stressed out. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: