20 Biggest Workplace Anxiety Triggers

From speaking up at a meeting to making a presentation or attending a company social event, there are plenty of workplace anxiety triggers beyond the stress of trying to hold on to a job during a recession. After all, millions of other people have lost their jobs during the past two years, so having a job in a recession is an anxiety that the unemployed might welcome.

But workplace anxiety is nothing to take lightly, with 10 percent of the U.S. population having social anxiety that can affect their work and cause them to leave their jobs, said Jonathan Berent, a licensed clinical social worker who helps patients through psychotherapy. The fear of public speaking at work becomes worse when there's a recession outside the door and you need to speak publicly as part of your job, Berent said.

"More than ever people are forced to face their anxieties for basic survival," he said in a telephone interview with AOL Jobs.

Berent is the co-author with Amy Lemley of 'Work Makes Me Nervous,' a new book aimed at helping people overcome anxiety and succeed at work.

The staff filling many offices is smaller than it was before, and overworked and facing more stress than ever. Stress can lead to physical ailments, such as heart disease, overeating, and problems sleeping. It can cause people to quit their jobs, as Berent said one of his clients did from a $240,000-a-year job in financial marketing.

The woman, 28, had panic attacks during conference calls, and came to dread the calls for hours and days, he said. She took a medical leave of absence and eventually quit. She later returned to the work force after getting therapy.

Another client was so afraid of being the focus of a group that he didn't want to win a contest at work for one million American Express points, Berent said.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to anxiety -- but most people who suffer from it don't learn how to manage their emotions and their anxieties, which come out through avoidance, he said. "Most of the problem is learned," he said. It develops over time and can end in a panic attack and losing control, so the employee avoids triggering situations until the job is on the line, Berent said.

Since the fear of rejection can be a powerful motivator in avoidance, developing self-esteem is key for combating workplace anxiety, Berent says. He recommends dealing with workplace anxiety by accepting the adrenaline that comes from a trigger, and turning it into your source of power. Here are some of the triggers the book lists to be aware of at work:

  1. Speaking up during a meeting
  2. Answering my phone without knowing who's calling
  3. Learning new skills
  4. Introducing a guest speaker
  5. Making a presentation
  6. Giving a speech to an audience of strangers
  7. Being interviewed for a job
  8. Making small talk
  9. When my boss asks to meet with me
  10. Having to talk during a conference call
  11. When other people get credit for my work
  12. Making an appointment and then realizing I'm double-booked
  13. Interacting with colleagues of the opposite sex
  14. Doing team projects
  15. Giving feedback to my employees
  16. Asking for help within earshot of my supervisor
  17. Seeing people who know I interviewed for a job I didn't get
  18. Arriving late
  19. Asking a question
  20. Being seen on a webcam

What makes you most anxious at work?
Speaking up during a meeting1 (20.0%)
Learning new skills1 (20.0%)
Being interviewed for a job1 (20.0%)
Making a presentation1 (20.0%)
Asking a question1 (20.0%)

Berent says that it is the avoidance of such things -- not the things themselves -- that actually triggers anxiety, which can result in losing productivity, being seen as not a team player, or failing in other tasks expected of workers. If it leads to losing a job, especially in a recession, that's reason enough to get help.

The book offers many exercises to help overcome stress at work, with the main point being to turn it into a positive power and make it work for you. It includes a five-minute biofeedback exercise and one on how "letting go" is important.

Here are other ways to overcome anxiety at work, according to a website that promotes peace of mind:

  1. Control your thoughts. Negative thoughts increase anxiety, so learn to control them.
  2. When you go to bed at night, and first thing when you wake up in the morning, think about the good things that are happening to you. There are always some good things happening, even if small and insignificant.
  3. Start the day with several minutes of positive affirmations. Tell yourself how would like your day to be. Use positive, cheering and motivating words.
  4. Be busy, do something. By doing something you keep your mind off your anxiety. When you wake up in the morning start doing something right away, and keep busy all day.
  5. Set a goal and work everyday to achieve it. This action will direct your thoughts and feelings away from worries and anxieties, toward something more positive.
  6. Exercise
  7. Find reasons to laugh.
  8. Don't watch the TV news before going to bed if it disturbs you.

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Stan Nex

Wow great article! ty very much i found it very useful
if you want more knowleght about anxiety you can find it here http://www.alexyewanxietymanagement.com/

February 11 2013 at 10:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked @ a job where my boss would ask me why I worked there when my husband made so much money in Iraq. I felt offended. Another time he asked me how much I made an hour, I told him it was none of his business. THen there was a time he went to his boss and told him I only worked 50% of the time. I felt very offended! He was never there, so I asked the person who was in charge when he was gone. The man told me no that I was always doing something and working. If you were so much as a minute late coming back from lunch he would chew you out. Yet he would not come back from lunch and when he did, he would have his lunch with him and sit at his desk and eat. Since we worked in an Army motorpool we had to obey the Army and government regulations. The only place you could smoke was outside the fence of the motorpool. Since we were at the end of the buildins we were far away from the gate. My boss would smoke his little cigars around inside the building. I told the Warrant Officer in charge of the motor pool and he would show up trying to catch him smoking. Then one day I saw one of the mechanics smoking while working on up on a grader. I told him that he should not be doing that. He put it out. Everytime something did not suit my boss he would chew me out and write me up for it. Then one day he told me to have one of the two men that had forklift license to put the old tires on my flatbed truck so that I could take them to recycling on Monday. Even though my job description said I was to operate forklifts he would not train me on that particular forklift. He told me that he had two people and that was enough. I told the two that I need the tires loaded. Neither one of them did it and come Monday morning they were not on the truck and my boss wrote me up and then I had to go see the bigger boss and I was then fired. I was upset that I was treated that way, but I was also in another sense relieved that I did not have to put up with him. I really liked my job and knew how to do my job he just made my job misable. I was the only female in the shop and the only one that worked for a different company. So, even when you work for a government contractor it is not always a nice place to be. The company I worked for would not stand up for me at all. They never even came to my job site to check on me or anything. I was like an invisible employee.

October 29 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why are you posting this on EVERY SINGLE message board? NOONE CARES AT THIS POINT, you're SPAMMING!

October 18 2010 at 6:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MIchael Mc Manus

I am happy. Do my job.
My supervisor is so distracted with the personal drama in her life.
Never answers the questions or issues.
Do my job and do it fine.
But, the stress should be when do they dismiss the ineffective superior.

October 17 2010 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Someone needs to write a book or some information about supervisors who sabotage employees to look good. Many people who are supervisors should not be due to not knowing how to interact or deal with people. Supervisors have been known to document the smallest mistake or infraction causing great stress and anxiety for a person to even want to speak to the supervisor. Also, some supervisors just can't keep their mouths shuts about an employee and making them the brunt of their jokes and forcing others to go along with the harassement. I knew a supervisor who would threaten others if they did not go along with them. Blackmail is also an issue. Many supervisors are not really doing their jobs, but only give the appearance while someone else is doing it and being berated. This is a very common practice and no one does anything about it. How does one fight this?

October 17 2010 at 6:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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