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To worry about my colleague's mental health?

(11 Posts)
HoratioHornbag Tue 07-Feb-17 19:16:39

NC for this. I am in a 2 person office with a colleague who I have been working with for the last 4 years ish. I have always known she is quite highly strung and gets very worked up and fixated over very small issues that are easily resolved.

I was recently put in to the same office as her (not something I think could be changed due to space issues - hence the move) and since then she has been driving me up the wall. If even the most minor thing happens (for example someone sending a slightly snotty-toned email) she will fixate about it for the entire day. She'll vocalise all of her anxieties about things, out loud to me. "Why would they write an email like that? It doesn't even say thank you or kind regards. What does regards mean? Does it mean they hate me?" on and on and on like that. I struggle to concentrate because of it. I had so much work to do today, that needed her input too, and every time I tried to steer the conversation to work matters she would just ignore me and keep talking. I feel like I spend a lot of time counselling her over every small thing. "I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it" "it'll be fine" etc etc. She is much older than me and has a lot more experience - I feel like an idiot talking to her like that.

My boss knows about this and he has had a few conversations in the past because of concerns raised by me and other members of staff. I have always tried to come at it from a supportive/concerned perspective rather than being really negative, but the softly softly approach hasn't worked.

When my boss has spoken to her she then says to us that he is just nagging her and she'll do things her own way. What can I do?! I am worried about her constant fretting/anxiety - it's not healthy and it's impacting on my work and our ability to get things done as a team.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

StealthPolarBear Tue 07-Feb-17 19:20:40

Lurking as id love to know how to deal with this sort of thing

user1483981877 Tue 07-Feb-17 19:27:22

Hmm, I'd say that firstly, you are clearly trying to help her but it is putting an unreasonable strain on your working relationship so somehow you need to step back as clearly, you are NOT her counsellor and the more you allow your relationship with her to continue in that vein, the more defined by it the relationship will become. You will be her rescuer. Having said that, detaching from it will be a tricky process, but I think personally you need to become less involved in her anxiety, step away, don't always feel the need to make her feel better, perhaps respond in a vague way, basically don't feed the drama. I'm not saying it will be pretty but this is your working environment too so you need to keep it healthy for you as well. Good luck.

HoratioHornbag Tue 07-Feb-17 19:30:33

Thank you. I agree that I've gone down the route of trying to help her, thinking it will stop her anxiety, but she's so wound up and fixated she's not even listening to what I say.

About the issue of her not listening to me over work stuff - should I just keep feeding that back to my boss? I hate it because I feel like I'm being horrible but I know I've got to deal with it somehow. Important work is not getting done because she won't deal with anything. Her anxiety seems to stop her from wanting to achieve things - she would rather just focus on very minor, insignificant issues that she can blow up way out of proportion, and then that just fills her days.

I need her sign off on a lot of things (even though she's not my boss) - she's more senior than me.

sonjadog Tue 07-Feb-17 19:31:02

I have a similar problem in my office. My solution - earphones.

I do occasionally have music on but most of the time it just looks like it. But she thinks I can't hear her so stops talking.

HoratioHornbag Tue 07-Feb-17 19:35:34

sonja I actually tried headphones but she kept touching me on the arm and gesturing for me to take them off so she could talk to me about something.

I would politely say to her that I needed an hour of quiet time so I could just concentrate on writing an important document but it wouldn't make a difference.

It all boils down to her not listening to a word I say or respecting/valuing my needs at work. I don't think it's purposeful or nasty just caused by her absolutely crushing anxiety. Again this has all been raised with my boss and he's tried to deal with it but so far it's not made a difference.

ChasedByBees Tue 07-Feb-17 19:36:52

It sounds like she has an actual medical problem but this is something a senior would need to deal with. The only thing you can do is to raise this with your bosses and tell them it is disrupting your work too.

sonjadog Tue 07-Feb-17 20:09:25

It sounds like you need to have an honest conversation with your boss about what is going on.

JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff Tue 07-Feb-17 20:16:16

OP I have had to deal with something similar though in my case the person was junior to me although not my direct report. I did it as a mentoring conversation along the lines of "you are doing some great work. This is a really demanding and intense working environment and sometimes it is easy to get personally invested in things. I think drawing some clear boundaries would help you. For instance on Tuesdays I will be doing research and cannot answer queries. You should make sure you have research time too! And I think you need to step back from being concerned about x person's attitude." And so on.

If she is your senior then HER manager needs to have this chat with her. It is very kind of you to be concernes about her MH but that is her business. She needs to have better boundaries at work. Establishing those may well involve her addressing her anxiety issues but work cannot make her do that.

They can make her focus on tasks that need to be done and stop interrupting colleagues though.

HoratioHornbag Tue 07-Feb-17 20:23:58

Thanks yes I think I need to reiterate to my line manager just how much this is impacting on my daily work (and project work in general). It's hard to explain when he is not seeing it all the time because it's just us two in the office (he is on same floor but separate office).

fuzzyfozzy Tue 07-Feb-17 20:39:24

I've no experience but could you email her (and cc your boss) when you need her to sign off/do work.
Then there a chain of events?

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