Workplace performance anxiety can strike when you least expect it: in front of a microphone; in a meeting; when dealing with a difficult customer; even during workplace social events. Feeling afraid about your ability to perform a task undermines your success, impacts your team, makes you irritable, and impacts your ability to create meaningful relationships.
Performance anxiety presents itself as racing pulse and rapid breathing, dry mouth, tight throat, trembling hands, knees, voice, sweaty hands, cold hands, nausea – and a queasy stomach. Performance anxiety is often a self-fulfilling prophecy – distracting us from doing our best at whatever we are trying to do.
In 2019 the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (“RADA”), which provides communication skills training for corporate individuals, studied performance anxiety in 1000 workplaces and published a report. RADA found we are most likely to suffer workplace anxiety in job interviews, dealing with disagreements or complaints, delivering big presentations, and even workplace socializing. Men and women experience performance anxiety differently – men experience more performance anxiety around socializing and team-building and women in making presentations to a group, a job interview and asking for a raise.
RADA reports that most of what we are afraid of is really about our ego – looking stupid, agreeing to something we do not want to do, worrying what people think of us, we are not good enough – interestingly, we worry less about losing our job or not getting a promotion. This makes sense when we remember that we seek psychological safety and validation from others.
What do we do about this? Here are some tips to deal with performance anxiety:
- If you are presenting or speaking, be prepared and practice, practice, practice.
- Shift your focus from fear to what you hope to accomplish.
- Be careful about what you put in your body – caffeine and sugar can increase those pesky negative feelings and body sensations. Go for small, healthy meals.
- Don’t focus on what could go wrong, rather, focus on the positive. Visualize your success.
- Avoid thoughts that produce self-doubt.
- Breathing and meditation are effective strategies to help you relax and focus on what is important.
- Try a quick walk or a few jumping jacks – just moving your body can alleviate anxious feeling before something important
Performance anxiety is something that affects most of us – and it turns out the impact is pretty significant – so try some of these strategies and move your energy to doing your best job to move yourself out of performance anxiety and into performance!