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Workplace anxiety can be good or bad for your performance

Posted April 17, 2018

Are you nervous about your job? Do you think this work anxiety makes you a better or worse employee? On one hand, it seems like it drains you more, but on the other hand, maybe it helps you stay motivated and push harder? Scientists from the University of Toronto say that workplace anxiety can be both good and bad, depending on how you react to it.

Workplace anxiety can be exhausting, but it can also be motivating – it all depends on your emotional intelligence. Image credit: Matthew Bowden via Wikimedia

If you are worrying too much about a project, you are simply going to burn out quicker. This is not good for anyone and it will hinder your performance. But if you are worried just a little bit and you know yourself well enough to distribute your energy efficiently, you may actually benefit from the workplace anxiety. Worrying about work may actually improve your performance. While scientists did use their scientific methods to figure this one out, professional athletes knew this for decades. They don’t want to be too comfortable with their task, because that will negatively impact their performance. Instead, they stay worrying, but still focused on the goal.

People who are emotionally intelligent are able to recognize their anxiety and harness its power for their own good. They keep looking at their progress and what has to be done to reach the goal in the most efficient way possible. Scientists broke down the model of workplace anxiety into two categories: dispositional (related to the person’s character and tendencies of anxiety) and situational (related to new tasks at work). What makes people the most anxious at work? Suppression and forces expression of emotions (like, a requirement to smile) and deadlines. How a person will react to it, depends on his emotional intelligence, but most people think workplace anxiety is not helpful at all.

72 % of Americans experience daily anxiety and say that it interferes with their work and personal lives. This, of course, is not good and employees should not try to induce anxiety in their companies. However, a little bit of it may actually help increasing worker’s performance. Bonnie Hayden Cheng, co-author of the paper, said: “Managing anxiety can be done by recognizing and addressing triggers of workplace anxiety, but also being aware of how to leverage it in order to drive performance”.

Employers can help their employees to deal with workplace anxiety. They can offer more tools to perform the task at hand, pay more attention to their needs, organize training to boost self-confidence.


Source: University of Toronto

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