Do you always feel anxious at work?
If yes, then this learning note is for you! It will provide you with some great tips for helping you understand yourself more, you will hear my own personal struggle with anxiety, perfectionism and competitiveness and it will also provide ideas on how to shift your own beliefs to take the temperature down so you can enjoy your job more!
Key Learning Prompts
- Do you have to be on top of everything ALL the time to be ‘good’ at your job?
- What core beliefs are driving your anxiety?
- What would happen if you didn’t answer that email first?
Heart-felt advice for overcoming your anxieties at work
The Story – my clients and my own
One of the biggest career blockers for my coaching clients and it comes up time and time again, is anxiety and confidence. Stress levels can make work feel ‘too much’ and a lack of confidence can feed the feeling of overwhelm. Clients say things like:
“Its important to ALWAYS be accepted”
“I want (need) to be across EVERYTHING”
“EVERYTHING I do must be of a high quality”
Words such as always, must, important, everything keep coming up. These beliefs create pressure. Pressure to be the perfect, most in integrity, honest, liked super boss ever! Pressure leads to anxiety and all the implications that has (headaches, migraines, getting colds a lot, frantic thoughts, fight or flight mode engaged, making decisions in a panic). It can also contribute to that feeling of not being in the right job, not feeling good ever (physically or emotionally) or no longer enjoying the job.
I’ve experienced the crushing need to be the best, to be on top of everything all the time, to be ahead the game, to always have the solution before the problem is identified by others. But it came at a cost – lots of headaches and not enjoying my job. Over time and with more senior roles I’ve embraced new habits. Some of the new habits came from understanding myself better (i.e.: writing a book helped me understand my creativity comes in short intense intervals and so I use that super power at work but know that I need to switch to other people focussed tasks once creativity hour is over otherwise I will burn out.)
Anxieties that I have learnt to manage but used to really impact me and my health include:
- needing to answer all emails in a certain time frame
- being across everything, not having surprises
- not offending anyone ever
- worries about standing out because of negative impact on relationships with peers
- being late for anything
- dealing with all problems in the immediate
- feeling solely responsible for a project ‘making it over the line’
Its not possible to be on top of everything ALL the time, nor is it essential to do a good job.
Stressful jobs exacerbated these anxieties – fire fighting roles, high profile projects, or managing troubled teams. I really had to ask myself:
“Why do I have to be on top of everything ALL the time to think of myself as ‘good’ at my job”?
The answer came back via a jumbled series of random beliefs and memories:
- My first management role where I was told ‘no surprises’ was a sign of a good manager
- A senior manager role where was I told to ‘keep your team silent running’ so my boss could focus on other disaster areas in his department (I was looking after testing for production support, infrastructure and integrations teams – keeping that silent running was NOT easy!!)
- Me – not liking looking like I didn’t know something
- Me – simple competitiveness and a love of ‘winning’
The great unravelling of these anxieties really began when I changed my beliefs and my expectations.
Because doing well at work does mean that:
- some times people will be offended by your teams achievements, your successes, your ideas
- being across everything leaves no room for creativity and can come across as controlling to your direct reports
- if you’re great you’ll stand out (and that is something I’ve had to accept and get used too)
- being late happens
- dealing with problems in the immediate means not having time to get perspective, (such as organisation or potliical context)… relationships aren’t just built in the immmediate, they are built over time… taking time out to consider can mean you make better decisions and get more support for that decision. Some problems do need an immediate resolution (especially when in an operational role), its just understanding when this is this needed and when a sense of urgency isn’t really necessary and may even be destructive.
Techniques and lessons learnt
Techniques and lessons learnt that help me to shift out of anxiety mode and shift some of my beliefs:
- Cardio (lots of)
- Testing different strategies for responsiveness and urgency to create more balance (ie: no longer having to be the first to respond to an email, not always having to be the one that offers to help, letting email arguments run and then coming in at the end to recommend action vs contributing to the email chain blow-out).
- Letting go of detail (appropriately – some roles do need detail even in technical management roles so this needs to be balanced with job requirements and the culture of the organisation)
- Trusting your team
- Perfect isn’t best
- Valuing creativity
- Trusting a great job isn’t dependent on always being ‘busy’, booked up with meetings or stressed out
- Finding ways to deliver without having tight deadlines or other boundaries that are within my control
- Leave at 5pm some days / take that lunch break / come in later one day a week
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
What makes you anxious at work?
What is one belief you have that needs to change?
What bad habit have you broken successfully, and how has it changed how you feel about your job & career?
Let me know right here by commenting on this article (I read all the comments and love to hear your ideas 🙂 )