Workplace anxieties are more prevalent than most people realize, and left unchecked, it can take over your life.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans, but only one third actually receive treatment. Anxiety permeates into the work lives of many who suffer from it. It has a negative impact your health, can cause you to develop chronic health conditions, and it can affect your work productivity and damage your relationship with your co-workers.
It can also cripple your career. I've written before about my client, Shanelle, who actually asked for a demotion and a pay cut because she didn't feel she was good enough for her position, even though she was receiving positive feedback regularly from her superiors. Shanelle's self-sabotage is a perfect example of how anxiety can dictate the course of one's career. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with anxiety so that you can reduce or even eliminate the effect it has on your life and your career.
Here are four common workplace anxieties and effective ways of coping with them.
1. Fear Of Pubic Speaking
Fear of public speaking is pretty common. So common, in fact, that there's actually a name for it: glossophobia. And it's no joke. For those who suffer from it, even the thought of speaking publicly (whether giving a speech in front of a large audience, or doing a PowerPoint presentation for a handful of colleagues) can cause excessive sweating, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and stiffening of muscles. It can be debilitating. People who experience it tend to shy away from jobs that involve an element of public speaking, which means they could be missing out on their ideal job or a big pay hike.
So what do to about it? The best way to address this anxiety is to attend a course on public speaking. There are plenty of reputable ones out there, one of the most well-known being Toastmasters International. There are also tons of highly-rated self-help books (Talk Like TED, No Sweat Public Speaking!, and Steal the Show, to name a few). If your fear of public speaking is severe, though, seeking medical treatment may be your best bet. Therapy and/or medication can help you overcome your fear.
2. Fear Of Asking Questions
As Lou Holtz says, "you're either growing or you're dying." The decision to withdraw from asking questions paves the path to a slow career death.
Especially after starting a new position, it can be intimidating to ask questions at work. You want to give off a positive image and convince everyone that you're as capable for the job as your resume proclaimed you to be. And while we all want a gold star sticker for being that knowledgeable employee who hits the ground running, part of being good at your job--any job--is constantly learning and growing. And who better to learn from than the talented employees around you?
Even if your instinct is to keep quiet at first, don't be afraid to make inquiries of your colleagues. If you're really worried about the impression it gives off, write the question down first and see if you can dig up an answer on your own, but don't spend too much time on it. Set your ego aside for a minute and just aska co-worker, as that is likely the easiest and most direct method of getting an answer.
3. Giving--And Receiving--Criticism
Let's be honest, no one likes to be criticized. Criticism is a main source of conflict in the workplace, which makes this an area that is ripe with tension and emotions. However, constructive criticism, when delivered properly, is one of the most effective methods of learning and growing professionally.
Accept criticism graciously. Don't take it personally or get defensive. Stop and actually listen to what the deliverer is saying and take down some notes. Thank them for their insights and offer to follow up with them if you have any questions.
Take time to process everything before addressing it. Put your ego aside. Follow up with an explanation or an apology if appropriate,and offer to take steps to correct the situation. Put a plan into place to ensure the same thing won't happen again.
On the flip side, being a good leader means helping those who work for you become better at their jobs (NOTE: you can thrive even more when you don't make it all about you), and they can only improve if they get solid feedback from you. Make sure you know the "do's" and "don'ts" of delivering constructive criticism. Ask questions before diving in so that the discussion is two-sided and you understand your employee's perspective first. Be specific about the issue at hand, and make sure to offer a solution. Be discreet about when and where you choose to have the discussion. You'll only make the situation worse if you embarrass the person in front of their co-workers. Understand that different personalities react differently, so make sure to consider that in developing your approach.
4. Feeling Unworthy
We've all had those days. You messed up something at work, you missed a deadline, you got negative feedback from your boss.
You feel like a failure. You feel like you'll never measure up.
Snap out of it! Resilience is everything, and there's no reason to let a minor setback damage your self-worth. Low self-worth can kill your career, not to mention your salary. Be conscious of your self-talk. If you're constantly telling yourself that you're a failure, you're bound to fail. More often than not, our fear of not being good enough or not feeling competent for the task at hand is completely unfounded. So give yourself a pep talk, watch a motivational video, and power on.
The first step to overcoming any anxiety is acknowledging it. I helped Shanelle recognize how much her lack of self-worth was stifling her career, and once she saw the impact it was having on her professional life--and the sabotage she was inflicting on herself-- she committed to changing her outlook and her approach. She gradually worked on building her confidence and self-worth, and her investment in herself paid dividends...in the form of a $30,000 salary increase.
Quite the turnaround from being the girl who asked for a demotion for no reason, huh?
Take a moment to self-reflect. Are you letting a workplace anxiety rob you of what you truly deserve professionally? Whether it's landing your dream job, developing a new skill set, or increasing your salary, don't let your fears hold you back. Make a commitment to yourself to tackles your issues, use the tools available to you to conquer your fears, and kiss that workplace anxiety goodbye.