When Confiding in a Coworker Isn’t Enough, Find a Trained Peer Counselor

This article was originally posted on Glassdoor, one of our content partners!

Think of a time at work when you felt confused, conflicted, or frustrated. Who did you turn to? Maybe it was a friend or family member that you trust, or perhaps it was your go-to work buddy. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Research shows that most people first turn to a coworker, or someone close to them, for support. 

Issues at work are universal 

Nearly everyone has grappled with something uncomfortable at work—whether it’s an issue with your boss or a coworker, asking for a raise, navigating a career transition, misaligned role expectations, an ethical question, microagressions, or fear of getting fired. At some point in our working lives, we’re going to hit a barrier that’s hard to get over. 

What’s challenging at work is often personal. It’s important to trust your gut if something seems “off” and to have the space to unpack the experience and figure out what action, if any, you want to take. Getting the support you need, when you need it, is key. And it’s normal that turning to a co-worker or friend may be your first instinct.

Limitations of venting to friends and co-workers 

People in our immediate networks can be great go-tos. Sometimes though, they may lack the perspective or knowledge needed to help us feel heard and support forward momentum. This can lead to circular conversations, excessive venting with no action, or general feelings of stuck-ness. 

For example, talking to a friend who really wants to help can unintentionally escalate into advice-giving based on their experience that may be well-intentioned, but not what you need. Alternately, talking to a coworker can sometimes result in emotional bumper cars—when the difficulties of the situation are transferred from one person to the next without resolution inadvertently causing an increase in workplace tensions. 

Neutral, confidential support

Tapping into outside resources can sometimes provide a unique space to process. Empower Work for instance, connects people facing tough work moments with peer counselors. They’re all working professionals who’ve been vetted and trained to help people navigate tricky work situations. They can provide a level of trust,  immediacy, and confidentiality needed at an urgent moment.

Here are some signs that reaching out to a trained peer counselor might be right for you: 

  • You’re not feeling heard or understood. Co-workers, friends, and family members may have strong opinions about your situation. As a result, you may find that you’re getting a surplus of advice—but still don’t feel listened to. (Unless of course your friend or co-worker happens to volunteer as an Empower Work peer counselor!) Working through a tough situation isn’t always about taking immediate action. Sometimes it’s about taking a step back, and reflecting on what matters.

  • Venting isn’t hacking it. While venting may make you feel better in the moment—and may even be just what you need—in some cases it can intensify frustrations rather than alleviate them.

  • You want to take action, but feel stuck. It’s normal to feel confused or conflicted when navigating a difficult situation. There’s a lot to unpack, explore, and evaluate. It can be helpful to have someone who can guide you through that process, and ask questions that will move your toward a next step that feels aligned with your values.

  • Confidentiality is important to you. Many work issues are highly personal and sensitive. There may be times when you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know. In those cases, talking to a peer counselor outside of your network can be a very helpful outlet. Everything you say to an Empower Work peer counselor is strictly confidential.

  • You need immediate and discreet support. It might be difficult to call up a friend or talk to a co-worker during your work day. Texting with a peer counselor can be a good option, as it can be done under your desk, in the break room, or even the bathroom—anywhere you have a little bit of privacy.

How to connect with a trained peer counselor 

If you need some extra support for a work challenge, text 510-674-1414 to connect with a trained Empower Work peer counselor. If you prefer web chat, visit www.empowerwork.org. Once connected, your peer counselor will ask you thoughtful questions about your situation, help you weigh your options, and support you moving toward a next step that feels right to you. Work issues are never easy. Having access to trained peer counselors can be an easy resource to have in your backpocket—just in case you need it!