Don't let anxiety cloud you
Most of us feel anxious about our careers from time to time.
But a new study suggests we should be careful about what we do with that anxiety or we could make some serious missteps.
Experiments show that when people are feeling anxious, the majority not only will seek advice but also take it, says Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. However, the anxiety affects their ability to discern between good and bad advice.
So, if you are anxious about an upcoming presentation at work, you might seek advice from a colleague. If that colleague offers advice, you're likely to take it — even if it's not that great and could cause you to blow a pitch to a client.
Or, if you're a jobseeker and getting more anxious about your lack of prospects, you could be susceptible unscrupulous individuals posing as career coaches who have little good advice to offer.
Schweitzer says he became interested in studying anxiety because “it's so common throughout our day and simmers underneath the surface much of the time.”
Uncertainty, unusual situations or unknown outcomes often trigger anxiety, he says.
“We're afraid of what is around the corner,” he says.
Interestingly, today's technology even may be responsible for new anxiety triggers: Bad news can be delivered any time through email or texts. Our constant mobility forces us to meet new people all the time, which often triggers anxiety, Schweitzer says.
“We're hardwired to feel anxious,” he says. But self-confidence “can inoculate you against the bad influence of anxiety.”
But if you've been knocked around a bit, losing a job or a promotion, your confidence may start to ebb and anxiety begins to take over.
“We become less sure of ourselves, and that's when we start to seek advice,” he says. “But the problem is that we're less able to weigh advice well.”
Another downside to anxiety: Not only does it start to affect individual success but also that of a company.
Anxious workers may begin to absorb bad advice that leads to poor decisions, or they may completely avoid making decisions.
“While anger may trigger a stay and fight response, anxiety triggers flight,” Schweitzer says. “We would rather avoid the issue than deal with it. We put off a problem, and it festers.”
An employee may avoid working with a teammate who triggers anxiety. But a boss who triggers the same response may cause turnover, he says.
“Maybe you want to ask for a raise, but you'd rather leave than have to ask for it,” Schweitzer says.
When you feel anxious, Schweitzer advises you to try to transform the feeling into excitement. Instead of saying, “I'm worried about this project,” tell yourself, “I'm excited about this project.”
The key is changing the way you think about something; “psyche yourself up,” Schweitzer says.
Such a pep talk may be difficult at first because people are geared to try to calm themselves when they feel anxious, and others may try to help you calm yourself when anxiety kicks in. Instead, Schweitzer advises channeling that energy into imagining all the exciting possibilities.
“Everyone feels anxiety,” Schweitzer says. “But you can learn to refocus that feeling on what can go right instead of what can go wrong.”
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy ... and How to Avoid Them.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Energy companies vie for experienced workers with skills in high demand
- Energy-saving tactics pay off in Green Workplace Challenge
- Energy Spotlight: Adam Pope
- Former athletes open businesses
- Chevron laying off 162 workers from Moon-based unit
- Beaver County power plant cleaning up spill into creek
- Energy industry says it’s on top of methane leaks, but environmentalists want oversight
- Typewriters back in style, keeping repair shops busy
- $300K in wine bottles stolen from Napa Valley restaurant found in North Carolina cellar
- Mylan loses Supreme Court fight over multiple sclerosis drug
- Shale sector won’t gut area workforce