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Stressed out in the office

      One day last week, I was innocently nuking my frozen lunch when a co-worker ripped into me for leaving my food in the microwave for a full minute after it was cooked. Later, she apologized and said she was stressed out because she just heard rumors of layoffs ahead. Should I have probed a bit to see if she was on a verge of a breakdown?

     Most people are these days are stressed at work. They're either worried about job security or the value of their homes or whether they need to dip into their 401Ks. And stressed out bosses and co-workers tend to pass tension on to others.  Most people can handle the strain. But in some cases, the mental distress can turn dangerous. Experts say the most significant warning signs are someone might start working too hard, appear despondent, or seem increasingly annoyed.

    An article in the Wall Street Journal asks, What do you do when you think that the person sitting next to you at work cannot the stress? Should you do something?

       Experts suggest intervening early -- suggest a troubled co-worker go home, take a walk, or call employee assistance hotline. Psychologist John Weaver says, when trying to help someone it's critical to approach with empathy, a sense of understanding where they are coming from. Never suggest someone has a mental illness. If the person resists help, back off, at least for now. My inclination is that it's my duty to help a co-worker in trouble, but I don't want to risk getting in over my head or being accused of prying.

        Have you encountered more stress in your workplace?  Have you risked getting involved? How would you handle a boss or co-worker that appears to be on the edge of a breakdown?

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