I work late most days and as a result I've had the opportunity to converse with the night-time custodian that is assigned to the floor where my office is located. Over time, we've struck up a rapport along the lines of "How was your day?", "We had some snacks/coffee, would you like some?".

Over time there were simple requests like "How do I configure my new phone for wi-fi?" or "Can you print some documents for me?" Which I happily helped given the simplicity of the tasks.

Recently, I was asked whether or not the individual was qualified to remove FHA insurance requirements on the person's mortgage payment and his/her adult-child's Financial Aid qualifications. I made sure to inform him/her that I wasn't a financial aid/mortgage adviser and wasn't qualified to give an expert opinion.

Although I have a background in economics and was able to interpret the guidelines from a brief internet search and inform him/her of the likely result (he/she wasn't qualified, and it will depend on his/her child's grades and financial situation), I learned that the employee might be suffering from (I do not have a background in psychology, and if I did - would not be qualified to diagnose) depression given the passing of his/her spouse as well as financial distress (income < expenses given family situation) - which he/she disclosed when I was querying the conditions of his/her mortgage loan (down payment, current monthly payment, term of the loan, interest rate, length of payment, etc).

I've done a bit of digging and came across these gems:

But these seem to refer to immediate coworkers, employer to employee, employee to employer scenarios. As much as I like to help, I am certain that the situation at hand is way outside my depth and am at a loss as to my next steps. If I go through my dept. channels, I may learn of more resources at my disposal to offer to the depressed employee, but given the personal nature of it, it would seem unethical to 'spread the word' so to say. If I turn the individual away, I know it would be immoral. If I inform the individual's supervisor, another issue of 'spread the word' comes to play.

Question: How should one approach this situation?

Resolution below.

  • Send that person to daveramsey.com. His program gives hope and helps people in his specific situation. You may simplify this and post it on the personal finance page as this has a lot to do with money.
    – Pete B.
    Sep 21, 2017 at 14:05
  • 2
    @PeteB. There will definitely be a language barrier. But noted. I'll find something in the person's native language.
    – Bluebird
    Sep 21, 2017 at 17:35
  • Definitely, do not share his private information, or you might inadvertently get him fired. Technically, I know that depressed people are legally protected, but that doesn't mean that someone won't try it if they hear about the news. Oct 12, 2017 at 7:57

2 Answers 2


Firstly, it is somewhat cheering to know that there are still people in the world who are concerned with the well-being of even incidental acquaintances.

However, I would be careful in how you proceed in your next step. In particular, I would be careful of who you share your concern with. For one thing, there's a world of difference between being depressed and suffering from Depression - and as you say, you're not really qualified to be making that determination.

That said - there are ways you can help. It sounds like this person is going through quite a bit in his life right now, and that will always impact on a person.

One thing that helps is to really listen - that actually can help a lot, even though it seems quite a passive activity. This individual may feel they can be a bit more open to you since you are someone they know but not in their immediate social group.

In Australia, and I think I've mentioned it elsewhere, we've had a long running campaign called RUOK? That simple question "are you okay?" is sometimes all that is needed.

Hopefully, this person will eventually pull through the tough time they're having now, and you can help them get there just by being a good person who genuinely listens.

  • 1
    At what point do I escalate? I don't mind listening, but the concern is that I am not trained to know the difference between "lending my ears" and "oh-shit, who do I call"?
    – Bluebird
    Sep 21, 2017 at 6:06
  • 2
    I'm not sure about escalating - but I think once it moves on from "oh, this is happening and that is happening" to "I'm having problems with life/motivation" kind of things, then it's time to suggest they get some professional support. Try not to bail, but be a bit firm in your suggestion.
    – HorusKol
    Sep 21, 2017 at 6:11
  • 1
    One more thing to note, I have the email to one of two adult children the employee has, would it warrant to say that they should be informed?
    – Bluebird
    Sep 21, 2017 at 6:30
  • 2
    yeah - I'm really not sure I'd go there, even with someone I worked all day every day with (I did once say to my boss that a peer "seemed to be under a bit of a load" and might need some support)... but I'd only be comfortable with approaching family for someone in my inner social group...
    – HorusKol
    Sep 21, 2017 at 6:31
  • Well, I'll take note and be aware. Thanks for your input.
    – Bluebird
    Sep 21, 2017 at 6:33

This is a potential bottomless pit. Best practice is not to get deeply involved in coworkers personal lives at all.

My advice is that you have already done your bit. Politely evade anything more. There are plentiful mainstream resources this guy could use. If you become a crutch it can become an increasing burden. Everyone has a hard luck story, don't become a part of someone else's if you can help it.

  • 3
    Hmm, I would say this answer is pretty cold, but it's actually not wrong, and for certain people with co-dependent issues, this is the right answer.
    – Nelson
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:48
  • 1
    @Nelson It may seem a bit cold, but it will save a lot of heartache down the road in most cases.
    – Neo
    Sep 21, 2017 at 12:21

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