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Recognizing Anxiety In The Workplace

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Becoming A Personable Boss : Understanding Motivation (4)

By
Akindotun Merino

It is normal to have some fear or feel out of place at work sometimes, but when the anxiety begins to control you and keep you from performing your normal activities it becomes a serious problem. For many workers that suffer from some sort of workplace anxiety, their productivity decreases and they fail to contribute to the job, which can make them more anxious. While there are many forms of workplace anxiety, we can all learn to overcome them by identifying the key problem and finding a way to manage them, before they manage you. Anxiety cannot be defined as one, isolated condition. It has many faces and can have hundreds of different symptoms.

But before you can begin to understand and identify any type of anxiety, it is important to know the common symptoms and characteristics of different disorders. Only after you’ve identified the type of anxiety can you focus on the source and how to cope with it.

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety where a person fears crowds or public situations because they feel it will lead to public scrutiny or embarrassment. This can range from simply eating in public to being among a large crowd in a store. Sometimes this person can be mistaken for having a shy demeanor, but these people have serious trouble socializing at work or even participating in meetings. This can keep them from being a team player since they frequently withdraw from the group.

READ ALSO: Coping Strategies For Workplace Anxieties

Characteristics include:

  • Extremely fearful of unfamiliar situations and people
  • Feeling overwhelmed with anxiety when in social situations
  • Fearful of being judged or watched by other people
  • Unable to face social situations on your own

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety and is usually defined as a constant state of tension and panic. People who suffer from GAD generally do not have anything particular that they are worrying or obsessing about. They cannot identify the source of the anxiety, and therefore cannot find a way to resolve the problem. So they continue to feel anxiety every day with either no apparent reason, or will find a number of problems to fret about without knowing why.

Common symptoms of GAD:

  • Difficulty focusing, sleeping or concentrating
  • Constant restlessness, irritation or edginess
  • Feeling tired or having low energy levels
  • Tense or clenched muscles

Panic disorder is characterized by a constant state of confusion and fear which normally occurs in sporadic episodes, or panic attacks. While it is normal to have some fear or confusion in our work, these feelings should not cause physical symptoms or interfere with our productivity. These panic attacks can cause sudden, debilitating symptoms, such as shallow breathing, sweating, increased heart rate, and physical pain. Often times many people do not realize they have a panic disorder since they may not recognize the symptoms of a panic attack, which can make this disorder hard to diagnose.

READ ALSO: The Basics Of Performance Management

Characteristics:

  • Feelings of doom or losing control
  • Stomach pains, dizziness or even fainting
  • Overwhelming sense of fear, usually irrational
  • Sudden heart palpitations or excessive sweating

Phobias are more common types of anxiety and generally focus on one thing or situation, such as a fear of spiders or a fear of public speaking. People who suffer from certain phobias begin to have an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety when they are faced with their phobia and can usually return to a normal state once the item or situation has been taken care of. Generally these phobias don’t interfere with our everyday lives since we may not actually have to encounter our fears on a regular basis (such as snakes, spiders, heights, fires, etc.). But phobias that can occur at work, such as a phobia of public speaking or a fear of crowded rooms, should be addressed right away since they can hinder our ability to function normally on the job.

Characteristics:

  • Fear is normally focused on one thing
  • Fear is usually instantaneous
  • Inability to control fears, even after facing the fear itself
  • Feelings subside when phobia has passed or has been avoided

If you are one of the few people that do not suffer from some sort of anxiety, then chances are you know someone who does. But could you recognize the symptoms in someone else if they had some sort of anxiety problem? Would you know what to look for? Sometimes it takes someone on the other side to recognize these symptoms in others and offer their help before the victim themselves can realize they have a problem.

Avoiding different types of social situations is a common symptom of social anxiety disorder. Many people can fear a variety of social or public situations, including public parties or events, group meetings or even having to give a presentation to a large group. They will often find excuses to avoid getting into the situation, or will simply avoid it altogether. When you think of the people you work with, do you think of anyone in particular that displays this kind of behavior? Do you have that team member that shies away from the group? Or maybe they are not there when it is time to present the project? If so, you may have someone in your group that is trying, at all costs, to avoid these social situations, and may need your help to overcome it.

Someone who suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder often has trouble accepting any form of negative feedback since they fear any type of rejection or judgment. Whether it is from a coworker or from management, any negative feedback, or constructive criticism offered will most likely be combated or simply ignored. The employee often takes the negative feedback as a form of judgment being passed on them, which in turn can heighten their feelings of being scrutinized or embarrassed.

READ ALSO: How To Lift Your Income Above Your Financial Goals

When preparing to speak with someone you suspect may not take the information very well, practise what you are going to say ahead of time and check for key positive terms and phrases. If possible, keep negative terms to a minimum. Gauge how the employee reacts to what you have to say, and take the time to talk it out with them if needed. Sometime you may have to check back with them to make sure they have understood what you were trying to say.

Tips:

  • Approach with caution – prepare wording ahead of time
  • Note how the employee receives the information
  • Follow up as needed – ensure the information was taken in

Difficulty in Focusing on Tasks
It is normal to lack concentration or focus at work, especially since there is normally more than one thing that needs our attention. But if someone has difficulty focusing on several projects, or even one main project, it’s normally due to some type of anxiety. External distractions, such as coworkers or office noises can cause distractions for people with anxiety since they tend to focus on the area around them and make assumptions about their surroundings (“Are they talking about me?” or “Is that my computer making that noise?”). However, they can also have internal distractions that we may not be able to see, such as hunger, paranoia, or even intimidation. Although we cannot always fix these distractions or the employee’s problems, we can offer assistance to them in hopes it will help in some way.

READ ALSO: NIN Becomes Compulsory For School Certificate Examination From 2022 – WAEC

Ways to offer help:

  • Offer to work with them on a project, if available.
  • Let them know you are available for questions or concerns.
  • Try to ensure that your work area doesn’t contribute to their distractions (i.e. turn down any music or speak softly when talking with others)

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology and a Mental Health Commissioner in California. Share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Jars Education Group
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino: Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Becoming A Personable Boss: Understanding Motivation (4)

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Becoming A Personable Boss : Understanding Motivation (4)

By Akindotun Merino

You can’t always get into the head of another person. Even if this were possible, understanding what motivates another person can be so complex that even that person is unaware of her or his motivations. However, to a certain degree, the essence of leadership is getting others to do what you need them to do, as if it were their original motives themselves. While you may not be able to specifically identify another person’s motives, there is a good rule of thumb that was developed by Kenneth Burke called dramatism.

Dramatisim. The great Canadian rock band Rush once sang, “All the world’s indeed a stage, and we are merely players.” To be fair, they borrowed this notion from William Shakespeare who noted that each person is like the star actor in his or her own play. Kenneth Burke developed his theory of dramatism based on this notion. If you understand that people see themselves as the star of their own drama, this can be the first step towards making a good guess as to what motivates them. If you can at the very least think in terms of how other people are motivated, you are better able to develop compassion for them. With compassion, you are better able to understand another person’s needs and how to meet those needs while motivating the person to help meet yours or your company’s needs.

The Pentad. The key aspect of Burke’s dramatism is referred to as the pentad, but if you have ever taken a class in journalism, you may recognize the pentad in another form, the five W’s. The pentad and the five W’s are similar and both allow you to think about who is doing what to whom, and how and why they are doing it. Here is the Pentad and how it relates to the Five W’s.

READ ALSO: Becoming  A Personable Boss – Leadership By Design (3)

Scene. The scene of something is the same thing as the Where and the When of the five W’s. This doesn’t merely refer to the physical place where something may be occurring, but to the overall environment as well. When and where something occurs may explain exactly why the situation is playing out the way it is.

Agent. This refers to the actor or actors in a given situation. This also corresponds to the Who in the five W’s. When you look for motives behind people’s behaviors, who they are can be one source of motives, but their environment and the other factors of the pentad could also be sources for motives. For example, someone who comes to work not dressed properly may be simply rebelling against work policies. In this case, the motive is more about this particular person. Another possible motive however is that this person has been out of work so long that she or he does not have the nice clothes needed to meet the office policy. In this case, the motive is not really about the person or agent but more about the scene or situation, this person having been out of work so long to not have the appropriate clothes.

Act. The act is similar to the What in the five W’s. It is the action that is taking place in a given situation. If you assigned some work to an employee who didn’t finish the work in the time you expected, you could look at motivation in terms of the agent, in this case the employee needs more training or maybe doesn’t work as hard as you would expect. However, another possible “motive” lies in the action itself. Perhaps the task you assigned is a complicated enough task that cannot be accomplished in the time you expect, or this can at least be a major factor.

Agency. The agency aspect of the Pentad does not strictly conform to the Five W’s, however, if you add the question of How, this gets to what agency is referring to. In the previous example, the nature of the work that you assigned to the employee might be difficult, and you may already realize that the employee is a diligent worker who tends to perform well. However, if the employee picked an inefficient way to go about working on the assignment, this could explain why it didn’t meet up with your expectations. This would place the “motive” under agency where the problem is not the act itself, nor the agent or scene, but instead the problem is in how the agent is going about doing the act.

Purpose. The purpose part of the pentad corresponds to the Why of the five W’s. Imagine that in our previous example you gave an assignment to an employee who didn’t complete the assignment in what you considered was a reasonable amount of time. If you have looked at all the other aspects of the pentad to get an idea of why this is so, analyzing the purpose may help. Perhaps your employee didn’t understand why this task was necessary or what it was trying to accomplish.

As you can see, when you use the pentad to analyze situations, it allows you to think about all the different aspects of a situation. An effective leader won’t simply blame the employee for not living up to an expectation. Instead, leaders who are effective can analyze the different aspects of a situation in terms of the pentad to understand the situation better. It may turn out that the employee was perfectly justified in not living up to an expectation, and you have saved both the employee and yourself the hard feelings created from a misplaced lecture.

According to Burke, on some level most people in our society and culture are motivated by guilt. He uses this term loosely to include emotions such as shame, disgust, anxiety, and embarrassment. From this viewpoint, people act to try to avoid guilt emotions or to find redemption, which is what makes those feelings go away. It is this attempt to move from guilt to redemption that puts an individual’s “drama” in dramatism. There are a few factors that contribute in a large way to people’s feelings of guilt and inadequacy:

  • The social order or hierarchy. As people interact with each other, we unconsciously and consciously create a sort of pecking order through our language and concepts. This gives individuals a sense of relation to others in terms of being perceived as equals or as superior or inferior to another person or group of people.
  • The Negative, in this sense, is an act of rejecting your place in this perceived social order. Burke used the term “rotten with perfection” to describe the situation where people realize that their place in a social hierarchy is to some degree arbitrary. Those who inhabit a superior position may feel guilt or anxiety because our language includes a notion of perfection that is impossible to achieve in actuality. For example, someone who is known for being particularly generous might experience shame or guilt for wanting to put himself or herself first on occasion. The idea of perfect generosity is unattainable, so the person feels guilty, pushing them to seek redemption. Conversely, someone in an inferior social position might realize that he or she is not as lowly as circumstances bear out and this becomes motivation towards redemption.
  • Victimage is another factor in this drama where the guilty person lays the blame for her or his circumstances on an external source, another person or societal condition. There are two types of victimage: universal, which blames everyone and everything, and fractional, where a person blames a specific group or individual. In vilifying the other person, the guilty person can assume a heroic role in their drama.
  • Redemption is the final stage of this type of drama where the person purges guilt through a kind of death, either symbolic, as in a transformation in character or a confession of one’s sins or misdeeds, or in actuality by truly dying. It is uncommon and disrespectful, for example, to speak ill of the dead. Burke considered the redemption stage a transformation where one transcends the old order of social hierarchies and a new order is created. You can look at Burke’s transition from Guilt to Redemption as following two paths: the first begins with the status quo followed by guilt or anxiety about one’s place in that status quo, followed by identifying a scapegoat, followed by confession and repentance which lead to the transformation of the old order into a new order.

READ ALSO: Becoming A Personable  Boss – Leadership As Service (2)

This description of the move from guilt to redemption can be helpful in understanding how people come to actively dislike others. Often at the root of ill-will is a feeling of inadequacy and guilt in an individual.

Another aspect of Burke’s theory of dramatism is called identification. If you have ever heard someone say (or have said yourself), “I can really identify with that person,” you’re getting at the heart of what Burke means by identification. In some ways it is the opposite of victimage. When you identify with someone else, you are able to feel empathy and compassion for them. In identification, something of you rubs off on the other person with whom you identify, and something of that person rubs off on you. In leadership, you can create an “unconscious willingness to be led” in another person by identifying with that person and trying to meet the other person’s needs. When you go out of your way to allow an employee off for a vacation he or she Is excited about, you create in that person a willingness to follow you and make your goals their goals.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof.  Akindotun Merino

info@akinmerino.com

YouTube.com/akinmerino

Instagram: @drakinmerino:    Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Becoming A Personable Boss – Leadership By Design (3)

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Becoming A Personable Boss : Understanding Motivation (4)

By

Akindotun Merino

Few people are actually born to leadership. Most people have to learn how to become good leaders. One important aspect of good leadership is knowing what you are trying to lead others to. This involves careful consideration beforehand.

Begin with the end in mind. Having a plan means that you know what the end result should look like. This can apply to your work environment, the culture, or what you expect from your employees. By having a clear idea of what you want from your employees and what you want from yourself, you put yourself in a better position to plan how to meet your goals.

Setting goals is vital. In addition to company-wide goals, each leader of a team should have specific goals for their team that complement the company’s goals. These goals can inform how you make policy and what kind of team culture you foster. If you have ever been involved in meetings or team building exercises that have seemed to be fun but ultimately pointless or a waste of time, you can understand the need to have clear goals to strive for. Then activities such as meetings, exercises, or other activities assume a greater importance. In order to be effective at setting and reaching goals, it is helpful to use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym:

  • When you establish specific goals for your team rather than general goals, you are far more likely to follow through.
  • One of the reasons for making a goal specific is so you can measure what the successful completion of that goal looks like, an important aspect of beginning with the end in mind.
  • If a goal is too easy, it can also be easy to justify giving up on it because it’s not important enough. Make sure you set goals for your team that are challenging but achievable.
  • While being ambitious can help you to achieve large goals, being too ambitious can often lead to rebellion, both in your team and in yourself.
  • Time-targeted. When you decide on setting a goal, you must also decide on when you expect your team to achieve that goal. You must be specific. This allows you to organize your goal-achieving behavior with a deadline.

In addition to being SMART about goal setting, there are some other steps you can take that will help you remain committed to achieving your goals.\

READ ALSO: Becoming A Personable  Boss – Leadership As Service (2)

  • Tell someone else about your goal. This will help to keep you accountable and committed.
  • When appropriate, divide your team goals into smaller milestones. When you collectively reach a milestone, reward your team. Small rewards can help your team to stay enthusiastic.
  • If your team fails to meet a milestone, don’t use this as an occasion to beat them or yourself up or to give up. Instead, determine where and how you failed and how to avoid doing so in the future. Most importantly, don’t give up.
  • Perhaps the single most important step is to choose a goal that is meaningful to you, your team, and to the company.

Setting goals for yourself, your team, and in some cases your company are important aspects of developing a plan for your leadership. However, on another level, these goals are actually not as big picture as you can get. To really understand how you can lead others, you must account for your own values and the company’s values as well. When you have a good grasp on what is important to you, this can clarify when to stand your ground and when to relent when you disagree with others, which is a position you will find yourself in often as a leader.

Values are not the same as morals and ethics. In fact, what you value is both unique to you and can change over time. How can you know what you value? The following steps can help:

  • Identify one of your happiest moments in your life. Who were you with? What were you doing? What factors contributed to your happiness?
  • Identify one of your proudest moments in life. Was this a shared experience? With whom? What elements in the experience made you feel proud?
  • Identify one of your most fulfilling moments. Rather than a happiest moment, this would be when you felt the greatest sense of satisfaction. What need was fulfilled?
  • When you work on determining your core values, identifying anywhere from 5-10 values should be sufficient. More than 10 can make decision making too confusing.
  • When values are in conflict, identifying which ones take precedent can help clarify your thinking in these moments.
  • Since your values can change, reassessment on a regular basis can help you to determine if these values still apply. Ask yourself if you are proud, happy, and fulfilled by these values. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable identifying your core values to another human being. If the answer to either of these questions is no, then you should probably reassess.
  • While it is both possible and likely to value other people, this may not be as helpful as valuing abstract principles which exist outside of individuals. Principles such as honesty, adventurousness, etc., can serve as signposts for your behavior and decisions throughout your life.

READ ALSO: Becoming A Personable Boss – To Be Loved Or Feared? (1)

A mission statement is a pertinent tool for the leader. Imagine you are somehow able to listen in at your funeral. What will everyone say about you? What would you like to be said about you? Now that you have taken the time to identify some specific goals and some core values, the next step is to write out a mission statement. Think of the mission statement as a kind of personal constitution. Just as the US government uses the US Constitution as a guide toward decision making, this mission statement can help to serve as your guide. This can be your own personal mission statement, but it is also helpful to work out a mission statement with your team. However, the most important step in making these mission statements is that you have identified what you truly value and understand why you have set the goals that you have set, both for your team and for yourself. Keep in mind that the activities in this module are first steps, and a mission statement that is of any true worth takes more than just a week to put together. So use these worksheets as beginning points in developing your goals, your values, and ultimately your mission and purpose, both professionally and personally.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof.  Akindotun Merino

info@akinmerino.com

YouTube.com/akinmerino

Instagram: @drakinmerino:    Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Becoming A Personable  Boss – Leadership As Service (2)

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Becoming A Personable Boss : Understanding Motivation (4)

  By Akindotun Merino

Whether you prefer an authoritative leadership style, a lenient one, or something in between, one factor that can truly enhance your effectiveness in leadership is to see yourself as serving the needs of your employees even as you serve the needs of your company or organization. Often these two sets of needs will coincide. The needs of your employees are the needs of a well-run organization as well. When they do contradict, seeing yourself as a kind of servant to your employees can help you to better weigh your priorities in both the long and short terms.

The traditional form of hierarchy in business organizations is known as a top-down or vertical structure. This means that you have a clear ranking from CEO to mail-room clerk, and everyone understands their place. This structure has both advantages and disadvantages. If you are a leader in this type of organization, it is helpful to understand what those advantages and disadvantages are in order to better serve the needs of your employees.

 Advantages include that you always know who is in charge and who to report to; decision making is efficient and advancement up the career ladder is clearly defined.

Disadvantages incude

  • The potential for power-based politics and maneuvering can result in flattering and yes-man type behavior rather than providing accurate information.
  • Employees at the bottom can feel less of a stake in the goals of a company.
  • If you have a weak leader, you will have a weak organization.
  • Information from management and higher-ups is prone to distortion as it trickles down through multiple filters.
  • Both management and employees can have a distorted understanding of what the other group does and has to deal with.

An alternative to the traditional, vertical organizational structure is known as a lateral or horizontal structure. In this structure, the different departments are administered by project managers who report to an upper management and serve as a conduit between the team and the administrators.  This approach has its own pros and cons. This approach tends to reinforce creativity and innovation because employees are more willing to take risks when they know that they won’t lose status in doing so. The organization can better adapt to changes in circumstances because communication does not have to go through as many filters. Employees have a greater feeling of stake in the organization. Employees have a greater sense of autonomy which can lead to greater development of a wide array of skills.

READ ALSO: Becoming A Personable Boss – To Be Loved Or Feared? (1)

 Disadvantages include the following: When something goes wrong, the lack of a clear structure can lead to blaming of different teams and departments. Decision making can be a slow process. The lack of authoritarian supervisors can lead to an undisciplined and chaotic work environment. Transitions from vertical to horizontal organization structures can be difficult because those used to authoritarian management styles find it difficult to adjust to seeing co-workers as peers.

It’s important to know your employees. Regardless of which organizational structure you employ, to lead effectively it helps to know your employees on a personal and professional level. Obviously, with larger corporations, the former is more difficult than the latter, but taking the time to get to know your employees as people can help inform your decision making in ways that not only affect employee morale but also help in crafting more effective approaches. If you understand what it is like to work on the front lines, you can better address problems in such a way that does not create additional problems. Keeping abreast of what goes on in your employees’ lives can also help you in addressing each person as an individual.

Genuine empathy and the power to lead contributes to the personal and professional wellness. Brian Browne Walker’s commentary on the I Ching offers some excellent advice about leadership: “Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.” When you can genuinely understand where your employees are coming from, you are able to know exactly what to do or say to get the best results from them. This requires developing your own capacity for empathy. Here are some suggestions for developing your empathy:

Listen. You may not always understand where an employee is coming from. Even the most creative and open minded of people can fail to grasp another individual’s unique circumstances. Consequently, the only way you can understand where others are coming from is by listening to them. Listening in this sense is not merely listening to the words a person says, but listening for the underlying needs that the person may be expressing even while failing to articulate this.

Validate. Particularly in times where people seem far apart in their beliefs, it’s really easy to look at a person with whom you disagree and see an enemy. However, we all have the capacity to feel the same types of emotions, whether these are fear, anger, or joy. We also all have the same basic needs. When you try to recognize that beneath any disagreement are two people who need love and respect, it’s not so easy to see someone you disagree with as the enemy.

READ ALSO: Personal Development: Workspaces (5)

Consider your own attitude. When you find yourself in a disagreement with someone else, ask yourself what you want from the interaction. Do you want to see the other person punished? Is this about winning or being right? Wanting to see another person punished presumes that you know best, a dangerously arrogant attitude, especially from a leader, who should be looking to serve employees.

Suspend your own viewpoint. When you are trying to understand another person’s feelings, your own point of view isn’t a necessary perspective. In fact, it gets in the way of seeing another’s point of view. Remember that suspending your views is not the same as dropping them or changing them. Your viewpoint will still be there if you still need it.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof.  Akindotun Merino

info@akinmerino.com

YouTube.com/akinmerino

Instagram: @drakinmerino:    Twitter: @drakindotun

 

 

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