There's no shortage of stress at work. For individuals dealing with anxiety, this daily routine of meeting deadlines, learning new tools, dealing with conflict, and trying to climb the career ladder creates a daily struggle.
You might be thinking, "But no one on my team has anxiety." Think again. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million Americans 18 years and older.
The severity of the disorder can vary as well. Of the people who suffer from anxiety, 28% are severe cases. Individuals with severe anxiety sometimes have trouble completing even the simplest tasks; from going grocery shopping to getting out of bed in the morning. With around 130 million full-time employees in the U.S., chances are you probably will work with someone who suffers from anxiety at some point. Whether you know if someone on your team suffers from anxiety or not, it's always good practice to do your best to understand the disorder and help create an environment that fosters communication, collaboration, and trust.
1. Do Your Research
If you know someone on your team suffers from anxiety, take 10 minutes out of your day to do some research. What symptoms do you see? How severe is their anxiety? Do you notice specific situations that make them uncomfortable? Observing your team and understanding that they all handle things differently will help you gauge their limits and play to their strengths, while they work on their weaknesses.
2. Eliminate Stigma
It's simply human nature to fear the unknown. You're more likely to hear about a teammate's heart condition than you are their mental illness. Although we're understanding and learning more about anxiety every year, the shame and embarrassment associated with it leads more people to view it as a personal problem versus an actual disorder. This mentality is not productive in a work environment. Without being pushy, set the expectation to have open communication and understanding. Keep the floor open for personal discussions and hold regular one-on-ones so your teammates have plenty of opportunities to reach out.
3. Be Mindful
Always be mindful of the mental disorder—whether you're delegating tasks or planning a team building event. You want to challenge them, not put them in a situation that will make them feel uncomfortable or heighten their anxiety. For example, if your employee experiences an abnormal amount of anxiety in social situations, it's probably better to have someone else facilitate large meetings or meet with important clients. Have an open dialogue and discuss their goals and limits. Anything they really want to accomplish by the end of the quarter? What skills are they looking to strengthen? Make these a priority when planning out objectives, OKRs, and work at home policies.
4. Be Encouraging
I'm not telling you to change your entire work process and adjust tasks to accommodate someone with anxiety. People with anxiety are encouraged to test their limits and keep living and participating in activities that may give them anxiety. You should be their champion in helping them hit those milestones and gain confidence in their work. Encouraging transparency and openness is key, so when something is really bothering them or their anxiety intensifies, they won't be afraid to come to you.
Managing Anxiety on the Team
There's a huge difference between experiencing symptoms of anxiety and being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Between approaching deadlines, quarterly objectives, and personal career goals—most, if not all, employees deal with some type of anxiety at some point. However, those who experience it daily, doing the simplest tasks, only thrive in an environment that is knowledgable, non-judgmental, mindful, and encouraging across the whole team. As a manager, it's up to you to set the precedent for an open and honest relationship that encourages growth and success, regardless of the disorder.
Does your team seem to be clashing? Here's your guide to managing people with contrasting personalities.