My manager is a great leader, but recently has been showing symptoms such as lack of sleep and lack of interest on activities. I went through a similar situation when I was going through Graduate school and ended up going to therapy. I know how hard it is to be in that condition and now that I have overcome my difficulties would like to help people around me.

Any advice in how should I help my boss without being too intrusive or revealing my experience?

We are strictly co-workers. I have been under him for about 6 months now.

  • 2
    How close are you to your boss? Are you friends outside of work, or strictly co-workers? – Neo May 18 '17 at 13:53
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    Strict co-workers have nothing to do with someone's personal life, especially the one of your boss. You should not interfere unless asked to do so. He might not be in the situation you think he is in. – Totumus Maximus May 18 '17 at 15:32
  • You should not. Someone in need for help who's not asking for it should be enough for you to get that you don't need to cross that line. If you want to hold his back you can become more involved in the tasks where he drops the ball and that's it. You really don't know what is going on and you really don't need to know, unless it's causing you trouble with your own job. – user49901 May 24 '17 at 18:23

Here in Australia, we've been having a mental health awareness campaign running for some years. It's message is quite simple: RUOK?

If you get a moment when it's just you and them, just ask them "are you okay?". It's up to them if they want to answer, but it's important the question is asked, and is surprisingly helpful to the askee. Also, if it turns out to be not what you are worried it might be, this quickly resolves your issue.

Another thing you can do, if it's your boss, is to simply email and say "I've got some spare capacity and I'd really like to help out on X".

I have once mentioned a concern over a colleague's stress levels to our common boss - in this case to try and get some support for the individual who was shouldering more responsibility than they really needed to and was in danger of burnout. That was a judgement call based on my experience and knowing the individual and manager for a few years. I'm not sure about going over a boss' head if they were the person I was concerned about, though.


That's a really tough situation, especially if you don't know the full root causes of your manager's problems.

How to best to handle it will depend on the sort of relationship you have with your manager.


If your relationship has little-to-no personal dimension then it's probably not something you can really approach directly. That doesn't mean you can't be of some help though - in simple terms you need to try and lighten the load. If you know if tasks they have building up that you can take care of you can offer to deal with it for them, if there are decisions or questions that you can resolve without needing to involve them (and you have the authority/autonomy to do so of course) then do that. As I'm sure you'll remember from your own experience when you are up to your eyes and teetering on the edge of burning out getting even the smallest of things of your plate can help massively. Some quick Do's and Don'ts:

Don't seek out any credit or rewards for doing any of this, otherwise your noble intentions could be easily misconstrued as an attempt to seize on their percieved weakness to further your own goals.

Don't bring the topic of their possible burn out up directly with them (unless they give you a very natural opening) - there may be things going on in their private life that they would much rather keep out of the workplace and if they are in a bad enough state of mind with personal issues that they are in pure white-knuckling-it mode to keep going at work you risk seriously upsetting them or bringing the whole house of cards crashing down.

Do make use of others in the team if you can - try not to bring up the context of the manager's burn out but try and head off problems before they get to him where possible. This applies not just to the decisions and questions I mentioned earlier but is especially valid for the sort of petty, meaningless trivialities that seems to be [i]de rigour[/i] in most offices - "Wah! Jimmy turned down the air con *again" and I'm cold" that sort of thing.


Only you can really know if you are close enough to your manager to do this or not but if you think you are then you could approach them and ask if they are doing ok and if there is anything you can do to help. Unless you know them very well and are reasonably certain as to the reasons why they are feeling this way I'd make it clear that you aren't there to pry, instead you are there to listen and help if they want it. To minimise the potential for any shame/embarrassment they might feel and to maximise the chances of them opening up to you make sure you do this in private and when you are reasonably certain that there can't be any interruptions. End of the day when most people have gone or at the start before people arrive is probably best for that sort of chat.

EDIT: Just seen the OP's latest update saying they are strictly co-workers and haven't known each other long so the "Friends" section doesn't really apply here, I'll leave it in for now though as it may be useful to others but can remove if required.


If you think it might be work-related burnout, I think it would be okay to inquire.

"You seem a little less peppy. Anything I can do differently to help ease the load?" - if it's a personal thing, then the boss will decline, but then, without being obtrusive into the personal life, the boss will know that it's noticeable. If it's noticeable to a subordinate, maybe the boss will think it might be noticeable to superiors, and will be motivated to take care of himself.

If it is work-related, then you're a pro-active, willing to help employee who is aware beyond the location encompassed by his/her own navel. Just be prepared to follow-through in case the boss takes you up on an offer to be helpful.

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