We all go through dips where we're struggling at work. And while we might be used to dealing with our own woes, sometimes trying to help a friend out of their work woes feels like a riddle you can't solve — because you can't. It can be hard to feel helpless around someone who is struggling, especially when it's someone who's close to you. But when you're not in the same line of work or don't understand what it's like for them first hand, it's hard to find the right things to say.
And sometimes there's no right thing to say. Sometimes your friend just wants to vent, and it's your job to listen and be there for them while they let out some steam. But not everyone looks to their friends for the same types of consolations and not all work struggles are created equally. Sometimes the stress that a person can undergo in their job can have serious mental and physical effects. Sometimes merely staying in a job can be incredibly detrimental to one's health or wellbeing. It can be hard to tell whether your friend is in a rut that they'll inevitably work themselves out of, or if its time to jump ship. Knowing this, it can feel like there's a lot of pressure on your role as the advisee.
If your friend is going through a hard time at work, these are nine ways you can be there for them:
If your friend is talking to you about her job, don't just listen, ask questions. Even do some research outside of the conversation so that you're being an active listener. Try to understand her position as much as you can. This will help her to feel more supported.
While it might be your gut instinct to offer solutions, the most helpful thing sometimes can just be telling someone that you hear them and that you get it. When someone's really stressed about something bigger than they are, like their career, they don't expect you to have the answers. They're not looking to you for answers, they're looking to you to feel better. Empathy will do that faster than sympathy will.
Sometimes the right thing to do is talk about it. Other times the right thing to do is go play paintball or see a movie or bake a cake. Offer your friend a night of total distractions. She might not be into it, she might not be in the right frame of mind, but offer it at least once.
If your friend continues to reach out to you for support, ask them about what their plan of action is. Let them know that they have your support moving forward and that you care about them finding a solution, even if they're not interested in your help.
Get down on the ground floor with your friend and offer to put your heads together. Sit with them and offer to help look for jobs together or think of ways for them to confront their issues at their current job. Make sure your friend knows that she's not alone and that this conflict isn't unmanageable with your help.
Sometimes you can't find the right words, and that's OK. Sometimes someone else said it better. Find your friend a quote or a video clip or a song that embodies the inspiration you think she needs. It might end up becoming her savior anthem. Don't be afraid to say you don't know what to say.
Weigh The Options
Make a pros and cons list and go through it with her. Help her map out the issues specifically and go over each item thoroughly. She probably doesn't feel like doing this, but will be grateful once it's done and she's got some clarity.
Your friend might need a dose of truth and perspective on the subject, but you have to be careful about being constructive. Maybe it's clear for you to see that their job isn't going anywhere and that they should just jump ship, but that's easier said than done, so don't insult their job unless you have an attainable substitute for them. And whatever you do, don't call them dramatic. We're all entitled to our own reactions — you can never judge someone's pain or struggle, it's all subjective.
Hold Up A Mirror
In a time where your friend might be feeling like there's a lot of negativity around them, point out all the positives. Remind them why they're great at what they do. Remind them of all the positive attributes they have and why they're capable and worthy of praise and success. Be a person that makes them realize that they're worthy of happiness in the workplace.