How To Support Your Colleagues Who Are Worried About the Situation in Ukraine

31 Aug ‘22
3 min
Stress and anxiety
illustratie van twee mensen helpen die elkaar omhoog of verder helpen
The war in Ukraine is bringing up a range of thoughts and feelings for all of us. Some have close friends and relatives involved in the situation in the country, while for others it’s a bit more distant. Either way, uncertainty has a major impact on our wellbeing. This is as true for you as it is for your colleagues and other acquaintances. It wouldn’t be weird for these thoughts and feelings show up in the workplace.


Have you noticed that a colleague is overwhelmed by the situation at the moment or that a member of your team is struggling with their tasks? Here’s what you as a manager or colleague (but also as a friend or loved one) can do to support others through this.


1. Normalize everyone’s reaction


In our previous article we shared what you can do to help yourself if you’re worrying about the situation in Ukraine. We explained that everyone reacts differently in difficult or challenging situations, and that it’s best to be gentle with yourself: It’s okay if you can’t concentrate at work or are a bit more scatterbrained that usual.


The same goes for your colleagues. Everyone reacts differently and every reaction is okay. As a manager or HR professional, you need to make space for different reactions and recognize that every reaction is valid.


There isn’t a ‘normal’ way to respond to this unprecedented situation: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior”, beautifully summarizes neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl.


2. Check in with your colleagues more often and offer individual support


It’s not always possible or helpful to keep your work and private life separate. If colleagues or members of your team are worrying about the situation in Eastern Europe, then they might bring these worries with them to work.


So, ask your colleagues how they’re doing a little more often, or how the situation in Ukraine is affecting them. Let the other person know that you’re there for them and that your door is always open if they need to talk. Also, invite your colleagues or coworkers to ask for anything they need from you to handle the situation better.


You don’t necessarily need to talk about this on a daily basis. It just needs to be clear that there is space to talk about this topic when the need arises.


3. Be empathetic and listen


Especially during periods when we are feeling powerless and are looking for control, people tend to come up with solutions, advice and tips. For example: Why don’t you try taking more time for yourself? Or: Have you thought of coming into the office more so that you can distract yourself?


When you do this, you are projecting your ideas about how people should handle their worries onto the other person. Try to resist this temptation: Be empathetic, ask questions, and listen. Why does your colleague or employee feel the way they do? Does the person need something? What can you do to assist and help them with this?


4. Don’t focus too much on the situation itself


Often, we have a tendency to make a stressful situation the main topic of our conversations. That’s perfectly natural because it’s constantly being discussed in magazines, on websites, and on the TV.


If your colleague is worrying about the situation, try to focus instead on the feelings and thoughts your colleague is having. Engaging in conversations about the emotions involved will help the other person to let go of some of their stress. Listen and offer support. There are always enough conversations going on about the situation itself, but less about the feelings involved.


5. Also offer long-term support


As you may have experienced during the pandemic, it’s mainly at the beginning of a crisis when we make time to ask people about their feelings and experiences. The longer a particular situation persists, the more it becomes just part of our lives and the more we forget to check in with each other. This means that, as time passes, you need to make sure you’re still paying attention to the feelings that the war brings up for your colleagues and employees.


Hopefully, these insights will help you to support those around you. If you could use some support yourself, read this article. And, of course, our psychologists are always available to help you.