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Performance Anxiety Among Employees and How to Overcome It

By Dmytro Okunyev - CHANTY
Founder and CEO


By Dmytro Okunyev | Founder & CEO - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:00

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Feeling on edge is quite normal now. According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans have experienced an increase in stress, anxiety, and nervousness during the past year. As we've all become used to remote work, never-ending work calls and trying to achieve a better work-life balance, it's still taking a toll on some people. Being anxious all the time can ruin productivity and eventually take a negative toll on a person’s career in the long run.

When a person is experiencing nervousness about an approaching deadline, a critical presentation or briefing, or a task that's pushing them outside their comfort zone, anxiety frequently comes to the forefront in the workplace.

How does anxiousness appear? It frequently results in noticeable symptoms such as a quick heartbeat, sweating, rapid breathing, and periods of exhaustion. And if a person has an anxiety disorder, these strong sensations of apprehension, excessive worry, or terror can appear out of nowhere, taking over their day and interfering with their ability to function at work.

What is performance anxiety at work?

Performance anxiety at work is an apprehension about one’s ability to perform successfully and how the rest of the office sees their working capabilities. Despite anxiety being a common stress response, it can eventually cause fatigue and panic attacks at work. Most people compete at work for exceptional achievements in the hopes of receiving a promotion or raise. Persistent pressure to achieve better results  can eventually relead to subpar outcomes and discomfort at work.

Impact of Performance Anxiety

Those who experience performance anxiety at work could find it challenging to collaborate with coworkers and customers. They are unable to concentrate on their work because they are too obsessed with the fear of failing, and they may even decline important tasks out of this fear. The diminished job satisfaction and confidence of these employees will have an impact on how they perform at work.

If performance anxiety is not managed, an organization will not only have underproductive employees but will also see substantial employee turnover as workers look for better jobs elsewhere. As a result, the company's reputation will suffer, and it will be difficult to fill positions. This is because potential employees would perceive that the organization does not place a high priority on employee well-being. Not only is it morally right to care for employees' mental health, but it's also a smart business move.

Techniques and Tips to Manage Performance Anxiety

Constructive feedback: It's possible that thoughts of insecurity relate to criticism and performance anxiety. What an individual may think of as constructive feedback might not reflect how others around him perceive it.

Everyone gives and receives feedback in their own unique way. This concern might be reduced by starting a discussion about how people respond to feedback best and by teaching managers how to modify their feedback delivery.

When giving an employee feedback, it's crucial to keep in mind to emphasize both their strengths and opportunities for development. For instance, giving negative feedback right before the weekend or at the end of the day could disrupt the employee's time off and increase performance anxiety for the next workday.

Educate everyone in the organization about the various types of feedback, and then ask employees who they feel best communicates the purpose. By adopting this procedure throughout the organization, employee relations might be enhanced, and interactions may be more fruitful without suffering from performance anxiety.

Investing in team-building activities: The development of a strong team and the lowering of performance anxiety can greatly benefit from team-building activities. Such activities place equal emphasis on developing friendships and a sense of community outside the workplace.

Businesses want employees to demonstrate positivity, good humor, kindness, and other characteristics. These can be internalized through a range of activities, from corporate off-sites, friendly competitions, wellness exercises, personality development programs, and athletic tournaments, among others. This energizes people, elicits pleasant feelings, and eases tensions that frequently simmer at work.

Look for calming techniques: Look for coping mechanisms or activities that can assist in relaxing and being energized. Depending on what is required to finish the work, a person can channel various techniques to calm themselves.

For example, taking a few calm, deep breaths can help an individual relax if they’re giving an important presentation to a group of people.

Another technique could be writing thoughts down, like in a journal. This may assist with downloading individual thoughts and practicing them.

Pay attention to triggers: Knowing how a person feels will help in dealing with work-related anxiety as soon as the symptoms start to show. Even if it temporarily helps, carrying on with work while feeling anxious eventually reduces productivity and fosters sentiments of disengagement. When performance anxiety is temporarily neglected, it may potentially go away, but if it does, it may come back worse and eventually cause major mental health problems. Knowing what triggers anxiety will help a person recognize when they feel nervous and take measurements accordingly.

Check-in with employees: Management must always be accessible to employees. Employers can take advantage of this opportunity by normalizing and addressing mental health difficulties. Managers should be open about their own difficulties with mental health, inviting employees and other team members to do the same. It's important to periodically check in with employees because it might be tough to tell whether someone is having trouble seeing through a screen. Management should always check in with their team members to see how they're doing, what they need, and how they can be helped.

Try some breathing exercises to release physical tension: Employees may be helped to cope with performance anxiety by employing methods comparable to those used by performers. Exercises that help the body release physical tension are a wonderful place to start.

One quick way would be to lift the shoulders high, then lower them back down. After that, tilt the left ear towards the left shoulder before switching to the other side. Neck strain is relieved by doing this. Next, take deep breaths by softly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

This easy method is a great way to get ready for any difficult and nerve-wracking work situation. For instance, just before a crucial meeting or an important presentation.

Maintain realistic expectations: It will be easier to foresee problems if a person has a comprehensive grasp of tasks, time frames, goals, and duties. Both employers and employees are affected by this. Being overwhelmed, lacking direction, and experiencing performance anxiety are frequently caused by excessive workloads, long hours, and unattainable deadlines. Take a moment to assess the genuine condition of the workload at hand; doing so will help to avoid feeling more stressed and will put a person in a better position to take the necessary practical action to address their burden and learn how to better manage it.

Both employees and employers must consider the workload and priorities that already exist before assigning or accepting jobs. Regular updates on the status of a project and any areas where an employee might be having trouble will help reduce stress and set achievable targets.

Recognize negative thoughts and put a stop to them: Limiting one's thoughts refers to disciplining one's negative ideas. When a bad thought enters the head, such as a worry that a person may fumble their upcoming team presentation or say something unflattering to a potential client, they recognize it and suppress it. It’s better to assure oneself that they are good at what they do and that one shouldn't be wasting time and energy on such thoughts.

Last Thoughts

Performance anxiety won't go away immediately, and it could occasionally resurface in cunning ways. We are just humans, after all, so some pressure is to be expected now and then. While this is alarming, the most useful actions we can take are to embrace the vulnerability we feel when performance anxiety occurs and to ensure that managers and HR specialists have the skills necessary to create a trustworthy workplace culture. People should always keep in mind that they oversee their thoughts and feelings. To be able to exert some influence over how they feel about the challenges ahead, they must pay attention to their physiological reactions.

Photo by:   Dmytro Okunyev

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