Managing Anxiety in the Workplace

May 04, 2020


Author: Dr Lynne Cruickshank, Senior Consultant

More than usual, people are currently looking to their leaders to obtain information and guidance on how to navigate the challenges that individuals, teams and organisations are facing all over the world. With these times of uncertainty and change, it is natural that some people may be experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety and require additional support to stay engaged and productive at work.


It is important that those in leadership roles consider how they can provide their staff with the tools and support that they need to manage any feelings of stress or anxiety as this has important implications for engagement and performance.

There are many useful resources available for supporting people experiencing stress or anxiety at work. For leaders, it is also beneficial to reflect on their own natural style and response to supporting staff who are experiencing stress and anxiety. This can provide useful insights into strengths that they can further leverage as well as potential opportunities to adapt or change their response to help staff feel more supported and engaged when experiencing stress or anxiety.

A good starting point for leaders is to consider their own level of resilience and how they generally cope with pressure and stressful situations. For those who tend to be naturally resilient, they should consider how they can leverage their stable demeanour to help calm and motivate their staff. However, they should also keep in mind that those who are naturally resilient don’t always pick up when others are feeling stressed or under pressure and may assume that others are able to cope as well as them. It is important that they readily check in with their staff to see how they are coping and whether they require any additional support. Ensuring that they convey an appropriate level of concern and understanding of what their staff may be experiencing and feeling will also help them to feel more supported and engaged.

For leaders who are more susceptible to stress and anxiety, they can leverage their understanding of the feelings and concerns that people may be experiencing to help support their staff. However, just like on an aeroplane where you are asked to put your own oxygen mask first, it is important that leaders who are more susceptible to stress and anxiety take the time to ensure they look after themselves to maintain their own wellbeing. They may benefit from considering how they can role model responding constructively to stress and anxiety. This may include taking time to engage in activities that will help recharge one’s batteries and relieve stress as when energy gets expanded it has to be renewed.

Another area that is useful for leaders to reflect on is their approach to interacting and communicating with others. For those who are naturally people-orientated and enjoy social interactions, they can leverage these tendencies to help engage and connect with their staff and provide them with an opportunity to voice their concerns and receive support. However, it is important to keep in mind that people differ in the amount of social interaction that they prefer to engage in when they are feeling stressed or anxious. By understanding others’ preferences, leaders can ensure that they find an appropriate balance between engaging and communicating with their staff and providing them with space to work alone.

For leaders who tend to be task-focused when interacting and communicating with others, they can leverage their strengths in ensuring that focus is maintained on achieving results and desired outcomes. That said, there may be times when it is beneficial to display a greater focus on people-related matters and consideration of others’ feelings and emotions so staff feel supported and engaged. Managers should ask their staff to share their feelings in a safe environment.

For those who prefer working independently or alone, they may also need to ensure that they are sufficiently visible and communicative with their staff. This will help staff to feel more comfortable in approaching the leader to voice their concerns or need for support.

Research has shown that staff wellbeing plays an important role in staff engagement and performance, with leaders playing a key role in ensuring that staff obtain the support and resources they need. For leaders, now is a good opportunity to reflect on how they can more effectively support staff who may be feeling stressed or anxious. By understanding their own tendencies, leaders can identify strengths that they can leverage as well as potential opportunities to adapt or change their response to more effectively help their staff.

One of the most effective and economical ways of obtaining insights into one’s behaviour and tendencies at work is through using assessments such as personality or 360 assessments. If you would like further information on how PBC can support you in using assessments to enhance the performance of leaders, individuals, teams and organisations, please contact PBC on (02) 8918 0888.

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