Maybe you've noticed that one of your officemates seems more down lately than usual. Maybe a colleague's output has declined to a noticeable degree, but he or she doesn't seem to really care about it. If you have co-workers who are acting off, or who've been really down on the job, it could be that they're suffering from burnout.

Some people will tell you that burnout is a buzzword coined by millennials to exaggerate the angst they experience in the course of holding down jobs. It's not. Burnout is a recognized condition, and one defined by Mayo Clinic as "a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work."

That's serious stuff, and it can lead to a host of repercussions for those affected. If you have reason to believe that a colleague of yours has fallen victim to burnout, here are a few critical steps to take.

Man putting his head down on a table with spread-out papers, laptop, calculator, glasses, and phone


1. Offer to listen

As with other issues related to mental health, there's sometimes a stigma with regard to burnout, and many people struggling with it don't talk about it because they fear they'll be ridiculed or not taken seriously.

If you think a co-worker you know fairly well is burning out, be the one to broach the topic, and let your colleague know that you're there to listen if he or she wishes to talk. He or she might welcome the opportunity to vent or seek advice.

2. Share the load

A big reason many workers wind up burning out is that they have too much on their plates, to the point where their loads just aren't manageable. If that's the situation your colleague is dealing with, you can help by offering to pitch in during periods where you're not as busy and can manage the extra work.

Taking something as small as a 15-minute weekly assignment off your co-worker's hands could provide a much-needed dose of relief. Along these lines, you might offer to check your colleague's email and voicemail for a week, so he or she can escape the office for a brief vacation. It may not cure that burnout, but it'll probably help.

3. Talk to your manager

If you and your struggling colleague share the same manager, it wouldn't hurt for you to make sure your boss is looped in on the situation. This especially holds true if you have a good relationship with your manager and feel that he or she will step in and try to help. Remember, because people shy away from talking about burnout, your boss may be clueless about what your colleague is going through. Just be careful not to divulge any information your co-worker wouldn't want revealed in the course of that conversation.

Burnout is a serious problem, and it can happen to anyone at any time. If you see that a colleague is suffering as a result of burnout, don't stay silent about it when you have an opportunity to help him or her escape that black hole.