What To Do When A Co-Worker Spirals Out Of Control: An Interview With Katt Williams’ Former Personal Assistant
It’s no secret that Katt Williams is grabbing news headlines these day for bizarre incidents. One is more likely to see news about Williams’ arrests more than his comedy routine and, according to his former personal assistant, the incidents “are getting stranger.”
“I was in court many a time with Katt,” said Brooks Jackson Colyar, who worked as Katt’s personal assistant from fall of 2012 to February 2015. “But from what I have been hearing lately the situations are strange… I am really worried about him. I don’t think the people around him are taking care of him like he deserves to be taken care of.”
Like Colyar, many don’t know what to do when someone they work with is seemingly spinning out of control. According to Linda F. Williams, COO and founder of Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching Services, “There are often progressive signs leading up to a psychotic episode. The signs can be subtle. Yet, in hindsight they become a trail of breadcrumbs leading straight to the event. Depending on the core problem, these can be dangerous. At the time that someone ‘loses it’ is not the time for untrained individuals to intervene.”
Even if you feel you know your co-worker well, you can never predict how that person will handle stress or a personal crisis. Colyar is finding that out as she searches for answers about Katt’s current behavior. Colyar, who joined Katt’s team after her marriage to comedian Michael Colyar suddenly fell apart, handled an array of things for Williams–and she not only worked out of his house, she lived there.
“This isn’t the person I got to know so well. I would never say anything against Williams–he saved my life after my divorce by giving me a job and support. So the things in the news are really worrying me. I have never really known Katt to use drugs–I lived with him. And I have had my own past experience with drugs and my ex used drugs, so I know what drug use looks like and I didn’t see any of that in Katt’s house or from Katt. Even at one point he was apparently diagnosed as being bipolar, and even then he did not rely on medication. He worked out, avoided stress, and ate right,” she said. “And since I lived and worked out of his home, I got to see the other side of Katt. But it is true that if Katt feels he’s been disrespected, well then that’s when a different Katt surfaces. But people are always trying to provoke him for monetary gains.”
Colyar, who is now producing her own female comedy tour of U.S. military bases, said her time working with Katt was “fantastic” and reconciling her experience with what’s she’s been reading now about the comedian is almost impossible. While Colyar is no longer working with Katt and is judging the current situation from the outside looking in, if you are working with someone who appears to be suffering a mental or emotional breakdown there are some things you can do.
“When a boss or co-worker is spiraling out of control, the first step is to help them get out of the spiral. Ask them to go on a walk with you,” advised stress reduction expert and coach Melissa Heisler, author of From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop ‘Doing’ Life and Start Living It. “When we are in a stressful situation, our fight-or-flight limbic brain takes over. Unfortunately this is the part of the brain which runs on autopilot, resulting in cloudy thinking when it is engaged. By walking away from the situation, disengaging from it, we can deactivate our limbic brain. In doing so, we re-engage our conscious thinking mind, giving us the mental power to solve the stressful situation.”
In offering assistance, it’s important that you stay in control, Williams said. “Keep a calm demeanor and even-toned voice with the individual. The temptation will be to respond with commensurate emotion. Don’t do it. Calmly state that you wish to continue the discussion at a later time and remove yourself from the threat.”
If the situation is too tense for you to deal with, leave. Being around someone who is acting out of character can become dangerous. “Not all ‘losing it’ events are due to mental disorders. Yet, you are not likely to know whether it is or not,” Williams added. “Remove yourself as quickly and safely as possible from the situation and immediately report it to a person in authority. If you feel threatened report it. Do not second guess it. The authorities will sort it out. If you feel uncertain about reporting such behaviors, just remember the life that might be saved in the long run.”
Heisler echoed that advice, saying “If those steps fail, protect yourself by walking away. If the situation is escalating and the other person has no intention of calming down, walk away. Emotional energy is contagious. Being around someone out of control can negatively affect your own mood and clarity. Remove yourself from a toxic situation.”
You also want to be sure you discuss and report the situation or your concerns with HR. “Immediately report it to the appropriate individuals — his or her supervisor, personnel, whomever your internal protocol identify as the appropriate contact. Follow up any verbally reported incidents in writing . Because many workplaces have a no-tolerance rule against workplace violence, these incidents must be reported.”
Added Williams, “These are touchy situations. When a person is irrational, even the kindest gesture can result in a bad outcome. The best thing you can do to help that individual is to report the incident to the appropriate supervisory authorities. De-escalation of an event takes training and skill. Once the blowup occurs, it is best to safely remove yourself from the situation and keep very calm in doing so. Depending on the root of it, professional intervention might be required.”
According to Colyar, it is her concern that has compelled her to speak out when it comes to Katt. “I am a very private person and I would never want to say anything to upset Katt because he was so good to me. He saved my life! I want to keep my friendship with him intact. But I am hoping that by me talking out someone around him will step up and start taking control of the situation and make sure he is sleeping and being cared for.” If she could talk to Katt directly, Colyar said “I [would] tell him whatever he needs, I am here. I love and care for him. I will always be here for him when he needs. Katt is worth saving, and I just hope this happens.”