It has been a common policy for employers and co-workers to stay out of a fellow worker’s business. However, that strategy may not be the best one to use if the work environment is to run smoothly. Even if a worker is somewhat isolated from the rest of the staff by virtue of the position he holds, his attitude and quality of work will affect everyone else.

The quality of work isn’t the only factor to consider. It is possible that the person may not have any support at home with whatever it is she’s struggling with. The head programmer may be having trouble with addiction. One of the payroll clerks may have recently lost a child. Whatever the problem is, there are ways to identify it, broach the subject with the person, and find a way to help him deal with it.

In the case of grief, it may be a simple matter of taking the time to listen. It can help a person ease the pain if he can talk about the person he’s lost. It is sometimes easier to speak with a co-worker who is often a familiar face but not necessarily a good friend. The need for someone to listen can be helpful in situations where a child is acting out, where there may be an abusive environment, or when financial problems are causing an issue at home.

Another matter entirely is when addiction is involved. When a co-worker has developed an addiction problem, some ways of dealing with it are better than others. Alcohol addiction and drug addiction may not manifest in quite the same ways. Someone struggling with alcohol-related issues is often better able to hide it. However, a drug addiction will usually manifest in ways that aren’t so easy to for the person to hide but can be easily explained away.

Some prescription drugs may cause a person to seem drowsy or very tired. This can be explained away by not getting enough sleep. A woman who is using drugs could explain the mood swings that come along with addiction as monthly hormonal issues. Drug addiction is also trickier in that it can be easy to hide the physical signs. Intravenous drugs can be injected anywhere a vein is accessible. Many of those places are easily hidden by clothing, and oral drugs have no trace.

The common factors in each of these problems are slips in work and changes in personality. A very useful site, www.projectknow.com, suggests that it is important to not be judgmental about a struggle a co-worker or employee is going through, and because many of the signs are the same for each problem, it is best to not jump to any conclusions about the causes. Instead, be open and express a willingness to listen, and find help where possible.