Jasmine works in the office at reception. She started 12 months ago and settled in well. However, recently it has become increasingly difficult to have her working on reception as she seems to burst into tears frequently for no apparent reason and is unable to control the sadness. Jasmine is considered moody by her colleagues and as such, they are starting to avoid her. You witness Jasmine shout at a colleague when they asked her if she could print something for them for a client. The reaction was so loud most of the office heard. This has become a common response in the last 6 months when asked to perform tasks within her role description.
Jasmine’s reaction seems excessive but not entirely out of character. It is our role is to determine if there is an underlying reason for the behavior that she is demonstrating. We need to ensure that we understand the full situation before making judgments on the next steps. Make sure Jasmine feels safe when having the conversation and not attacked.
- Timing is critical. You need to speak to your employee as soon as you can following an outburst.
- When inviting your employee to come and chat be supportive as they are clearly emotive and you do not want to make the situation worse.
- Ask your employee to come and see you personally. At this point don’t send an email.
- Make sure you meet out of view of the rest of the office
- Start by asking your employee if they are ok? Don’t pass judgement or launch into asking for an explanation about the outburst.
- Watch for signs they are agitated or unable to engage at the moment in a conversation.
It is worth asking Jasmine if everything is alright. It is important to give the employee the opportunity to explain the behaviour before we determine the next steps. It is easy to jump to conclusions if we do not have all of the facts. Jasmine starts to cry and tells you she has no idea why she is reacting this way, it’s like she cannot control it. She is worried and knows that others are avoiding her but it sneaks up on her.
- If an employee seems unable to converse without getting emotional just take your time. Let them talk, allowing them to cry if needed, just nod listen and say very little.
- If they do not seem to be able to calm down stay with them, do not stop the meeting. It is critical that they feel safe and has time to process.
- Once they feel comfortable talking and are able to listen, be clear with what you are saying and ensure you listen carefully to them.
- Don’t try to compare stories or say you know how they feel. Empathise– “that must be difficult” or “I can only imagine “ are appropriate responses.
Whilst we are not trained mental health experts, radical changes in anyone’s behavior may be a symptom of something much deeper. We may need to support the employee to seek external help. We can ask if Jasmine has spoken to anyone about these feelings and her behaviour. Has she seen a medical practitioner? How long have they been going on for? We need Jasmine to understand that the change in behavior is affecting her work and we are here to work together on finding a solution. Jasmine tells you her parents have asked her to see a Doctor and that she is booked in next week.
Based on what we now know we can offer Jasmine a few options. Would she like some time off whilst she seeks some advice? Would Jasmine like to change duties (if practicable) whilst she seeks medical advice?
- If your employee wants to go home agree how they will get home, and that there is someone there when they get home. You do not want someone leaving the office in the state that they may be is in and going home to an empty house.
- Once the meeting has concluded and you have agreed on the outcomes and next steps, ensure they feel ok to return to work.
Agree to meet again once Jasmine has seen a doctor to work out the next steps. Ensure that Jasmine feels supported. Document the conversation for future reference.
- Agree on a communication plan between you and your employee and agree on what you will say to the team about the potential absence. Agree on what they will say if relationships need repairing with work colleagues.