What is it Workplace Anxiety?
Everyone is familiar with feeling anxious or stressed at the workplace every now and then. Some anxiety in the workplace can help to facilitate and boost performance, by helping with focus and regulating our behaviours to remain motivated and stay on task. Without anxiety, performance can suffer as we may become complacent about the task at hand. However, persistent, excessive, and overwhelming stress or anxiety that impacts daily functioning can interfere with productivity and performance, particularly if we become distracted by the anxiety and its causes.
Toxic work environments, stressful tasks, tight deadlines, long hours, increasing demands, and workplace bullying are some causes of anxiety disorders which can create chronic stress and lead to feeling overwhelmed, drained, and anxiety. Unfortunately, workplace anxiety often effects home and personal life, and can ultimately negatively impact on our physical and emotional health, as well as your relationships. Therefore, it is important to address it as soon as you notice it in your life. Workplace anxiety differs from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as the symptoms are more specifically related to work and the work environment. However, workplace anxiety may present as generalized fears, phobias, or anxieties regarding working conditions, interacting with colleagues and superiors, as well as fears of inadequacy or judgement. Common workplace anxieties include:
- Fear of working in groups
- Fear of not meeting deadlines
- Worrying that work may not meet expectations of others
- Fear of interacting with authority figures
- Difficulties delegating tasks to others
- Fear of speaking out
- Fear of public humiliation
- Fear of noticeable embarrassment or nervousness
- Avoidance of committing to new and challenging tasks
- Fear of not performing to the highest standards
- Fear of negative evaluation of performance or professional standards
Signs of workplace anxiety includes:
- Problems sleeping
- Stomach problems
- Muscle tension / headaches / migraines
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in work or being at work
- Social withdrawal
- Drinking alcohol or taking illicit substances to cope
- Feeling more irritable at work or at home
- Feeling overwhelmed by everyday life
- Finding it difficult to ‘switch off’ from work even when not at work
Treatment for Workplace Anxiety
It can be uncomfortable for many individuals to talk to their fellow workers or employers about how they feel, for fear of discrimination or being treated differently, or fears of losing their job. Alternatively, being on the receiving end of bullying in the workplace, may lead individuals to feel like they are unable to assert themselves and express their rights in the workplace. In addition to the procedures outlined by their workplace regarding reporting of workplace bullying, the individual may benefit from seeking help from a healthcare professional. A psychologist trained in the field of anxiety can work with the individual to develop techniques for reducing and managing their work related anxieties, and advise and support them to overcome their fears.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace anxiety may also be connected to workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is characterised by repeated unreasonable behaviour, inflicted upon individuals in the work environment, which creates a risk to the physical safety and/or mental health and wellbeing of the individual. These acts may be intentional or unintentional, taking form in direct actions including name calling, teasing or scolding, or through indirect actions like withholding important information, treating them as inferior, or socially excluding them. This can lead individuals to feel humiliated, subordinate, ashamed, victimised or threatened.
Examples of workplace bullying can include:
- Deliberately excluding someone from workplace meetings, events, or social activities
- Spreading misinformation and/or malicious rumours
- Denying an employee access to information, appropriate training, supervision, consultation, or appropriate resources
- Withholding information to deliberately negatively affect an employee or co-worker’s performance or ability to complete a task
- Setting unrealistic deadlines or constantly changing timelines
- Unjustified criticism, blame, or complaints
- Abusive, offensive, and/or insulting language and comments
- Setting tasks that are unreasonably exceeding or below an individuals’ skill level
- Changing work arrangements including rosters and holiday leave without appropriate notification