How Managers Can Influence & Reduce Workplace Anxiety

The world is becoming more and more stressed. And it’s this anxiety that leads to disengaged (or worse, disappearing) employees. It’s true; has fallen for the first time in over a decade.


According to Gallup, in 2020, 36% of employees surveyed said they were engaged, and 14% were actively disengaged. By late 2021, those numbers had changed to only 34% engaged employees and 16% actively disengaged employees. One major reason for this trend —increased workplace anxiety and stress.

Is Anxiety at Work a Problem?

Short answer—yes. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report shows that 44% of employees experienced high stress at work in 2021, beating out the COVID-19 2020 high of 43% and rising significantly from the 33% recorded in 2014. Employees are more stressed than ever, so they’re protecting their physical and mental well-being by seeking out workplace cultures that align with a healthy, happy, and less-stressed lifestyle.


In fact, according to a Deloitte study, 68% percent of employees and 81% of executives said that they would choose better well-being over career advancement. This all leads to the ongoing “Great Resignation.” If businesses want to keep their employees happy and healthy, they need to address workplace anxiety and stress.


Sources of Anxiety in the Workplace

Workplace anxiety can have many sources, but there’s one source in particular that seems to surpass all others—people. According to a Dale Carnegie study, only 50% of employees have confidence in their immediate supervisor, and only 40% have confidence in senior leadership.


Employees are struggling with their workload and their work-life balance while trying to maintain their mental well-being. Immediate supervisors and bosses can have a huge impact on these aspects. Here are some common ways immediate supervisors might accidentally add to workplace anxiety and stress:

  • Miscommunications: According to a 2022 report from Grammarly, 93% of business leaders say “communication is the backbone of business.” Yet, 72% of leaders say their teams struggle to communicate, and they estimate that 7.47 hours are lost each week due to poor or miscommunications. Immediate supervisors are responsible for communicating tasks and changes clearly, which means miscommunications can be a source of worker stress.

  • Lack of Psychological Safety: Immediate supervisors and managers are key elements in a psychologically safe company culture. Employees who do not feel supported or heard by their managers will disengage from their work. Without strong empathy from immediate supervisors, workers can suffer anxiety from a lack of psychological safety.

  • Micromanaging: Unfortunately, many managers and supervisors can slip into micromanaging tendencies, and this adds to worker stress and anxiety. Micromanaging is often a symptom of a larger organizational issue of strict policies and poor company culture.

  • Inadequate Training: If reports are making mistakes at work, anxiety can easily result. But often, these mistakes are the result of a lack of training. New employees might be expected to jump in with both feet and “figure things out as they go.” But this lack of confidence in skills and job duties can lead to additional workplace stress.


Four Ways to Deal with Anxiety at Work

There are many ways to deal with anxiety and stress at work. Managers and immediate supervisors can help mitigate stress for reports and other employees using a few simple approaches.


1. Better Communication

If communication is so key to business, then managers should take extra care to ensure they are being clear in their verbal and written instructions and answers. Be sure to give all the information someone would need to complete any projects you’re assigning. Double-check your emails to guarantee you answered every question the sender had. Make sure executive decisions are also communicated to entry-level employees and reports in a timely manner. More and clearer communication can relieve stress in employees.


2. More Empathy

Leaders, managers, supervisors—anyone with direct reports—should lead with empathy first. Empathy allows you to see things from your employees’ points of view. When people feel appreciated, listened to, and understood, they are likely to feel psychologically safe from any social anxiety at work. Increasing empathy requires self-awareness which leads to higher emotional intelligence. Your reports will see and feel your efforts which will reduce their stress in the workplace.


3. Increased Trust/Empowered Employees

As a manager or supervisor, you have the power to make employees feel valued, confident, and empowered. These three key elements drive worker creativity and motivation. Empowered employees also don’t need to be micromanaged, which then removes a common source of stress.


4. Personal & Professional Development

A McKinsey report estimates that 100 million workers (that’s 1 in 16) across eight countries will need to find a new occupation by 2030 due to the changing nature of the job market. Reskilling and upskilling are critical aspects of ensuring employees feel confident in their job and can continue to grow as more AI replaces their day-to-day tasks. A Capterra study found that 87% of HR leaders said their employee L&D program would be critical to retaining talent in 2022. Investing in worker training reduces turnover, helps employees grow, and decreases worker stress.


We all need to know how to deal with anxiety at work. And that’s where Dale Carnegie can help. Whether you want better people skills or leadership training or programs to reduce stress and worry, we’re here to help managers and supervisors communicate more clearly, increase empathy, and ultimately help employees be less stressed.

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