Workplace anxiety is good

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If people aren’t anxious, it implies they are not motivated and just don’t care about the job or performance. 

Many workplaces follow a mundane routine, making the environment boring. People seek spice in their life. A recent research suggests that some anxiety at workplaces is essential to boost productivity among employees.

If people aren’t anxious, it is probably because they are not motivated enough to do the job or simply don’t care about performance.

Julie McCarthy from the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management, says, “If you have too much anxiety, and you’re completely consumed by it, then it’s going to derail your performance. On the other hand, moderate levels of anxiety can facilitate and drive performance.”

McCarthy—an expert on organisational behaviour—along with Bonnie Hayden Cheng—an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University—looked at both the triggers of workplace anxiety and also their relationship with employee performance.

It is understood that if employees are constantly distracted or thinking about matters that cause them anxiety, it will prevent them from completing tasks at work. And this can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout.

However, in certain situations, anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self-regulate their behaviour.

Comparing the situation with that of athletes, Cheng says, “They are trained to harness anxiety in order to remain motivated and stay on the task. Likewise, if employees engage in something called self-regulatory processing, that is, monitoring their progress on a task and focusing their efforts toward performing that task, it can help boost their performance.”

Work-anxious employees, who are motivated, are more likely to harness anxiety in order to help them focus on their tasks. Those who are emotionally intelligent, are able to recognise their feelings of anxiety and use the same to regulate their performance.

Experienced and skilled professionals are less likely to let anxiety affect their performance.

However, it doesn’t mean that organisations should induce anxiety at workplaces to boost productivity. Instead, they should recognise and address triggers of workplace anxiety, and at the same time, be aware of how to leverage these in order to drive performance.

For instance, certain jobs require constant expression or suppression of emotion—service with a smile—or constant looming deadlines or frequent organisational change. These kinds of anxiety are harmful
both for the employee and the organisation. Office politics and control over work also contribute to anxiety. Employee characteristics, including age, gender and job tenure also influence the experience of workplace anxiety.

Organisations need to help employees boost their self-confidence, offer tools and resources to perform tasks at work, and also equip employees with strategies to recognise, use, and manage feelings of anxiety through the development of emotional intelligence.

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