How To Invisibly Support Your Coworkers

Walking In An Alley
Photo by Derek Lee on Unsplash

Many people are helpful by nature. They’re mostly in a good mood. They seem to have their lives in order. And they want to make others around them happy also. They want to be a team player and lift others up to their fullest potential. For some, it’s even more important than their own success and happiness.

But helping others can be tricky. Sometimes they don’t want the help. They want to do things on their own. Other times they might want help, but they don’t really want to ask or they don’t want it to be obvious that they want the help.

So if you see someone, perhaps at work, that looks like they need support, it might work better to do it a little behind the scenes. Kind of doing good deeds without expecting anything in return.

Here are a few tips.

1. Don’t Add More To Their Plate

If you’re the manager, take a look at what the person has on their plate. These days it’s very easy to just add and add to another person’s workload. We don’t think about what they’re already doing. So keep a list of all the tasks a person is responsible for. Try to take something off every time you add something. Try to keep a priority list as well. This way the person knows what is most important and what they can leave for “next”.

If you’re a coworker, try not to ask them for help. It can be just as easy for some to ask coworkers for help. This can be good most of the time, but if the person is stressed, maybe don’t pick up the phone to talk to them for 20 minutes about something you’re struggling with. Try another method or another coworker.

2. No Unsolicited Advice

Unsolicited advice often falls upon deaf ears. People don’t really want it. It’s rarely helpful. Even if it is something that could help the person they usually disregard it at best and they may try to prove you wrong by doing the opposite and having success.

I remember at my first job out of college that I had to take a personality test. One of the things that popped up was the fact that I often liked proving the world wrong in this way. If someone said something could only be done one way, I would do it another way just to make a point.

Advice can be good. But make sure the person is asking for it. Otherwise you’re just making the situation worse.

3. Remove One Or Two Of Their Daily Stressors

If you’re the boss, look to remove stressors from your coworker. Assess what they’re working on and determine if they have too much on their plate. You might not be adding new things to their workload, but it may be necessary to take something away. Maybe there is another employee that would be better suited for something another employee is struggling with. Maybe there is room in the budget to hire someone to work on tasks that others are feeling overwhelmed by.

If you’re a coworker, see if you can work behind the scenes to help get some tasks done. Maybe talk to your boss and offer to take on a task that you feel is overwhelming the other person. Not because they aren’t able to do it, but because it would help them focus on other important aspects of their job.

4. Bring Them A Snack

You can show someone you care by bringing them a little something to improve their day. If you go to lunch with a coworker and see that they often order the same thing, maybe go to that spot and order it for them. Bring it back and leave it on their desk. Maybe they were too busy to go to lunch today. Just drop off their favorite with a little note saying that you know they’re busy and that you missed them at lunch.

People like to know that others are thinking of them. Sometimes a little gift can go a long way to boosting the day of someone else.

5. Ask How You Can Help

It’s not quite invisible, but it can still be a way to be helpful without being pushy about it. If someone is struggling, don’t necessarily assume that you know how to help. Take a moment to ask if there is anything you can do to help them. Then do it.

And bank that knowledge away for the future. If you see that the person is again struggling in the future, take your knowledge from before and see if you can step in to relieve some of their workload.

Don’t Expect Immediate Reciprocal Acts

If you’re trying to help a coworker with the expectation that they will reciprocate, you’re probably fighting an uphill battle. For one, that’s not the right reason for doing it. For two, the other person is probably too busy and stressed to notice the little things you do. At least at first. Over time, they may start being kind in general, including to you, as you help ease their workload a bit.


It’s good that you’re looking for ways to help your coworkers. It can be good for all involved including your customers. But the best approach is probably to do it behind the scenes. This can be tricky because you’re probably not going to get any recognition or thanks for the effort. But if you’re okay with internal validation, it can be a really great thing.

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