Managing “Manager Anxiety”

Why Your Personal Emotions Matter to Your Business

Anxiety in the workplace can manifest in many different ways: as irritability, too much focus on the details, withdrawal from appropriate day-to-day management.

Managing “manager anxiety” can help your business thrive and your employees enjoy their work environment. The most common type of business owner tends to be driven, detail-oriented, and sensitive to the slightest of life stresses. Those qualities tend to be what made them fabulous entrepreneurs in the first place. These individuals tend to default to a type of anxiety categorized as “justified perfectionism.” After all, your name appears as the person in charge. If your business does not perform in the way that your customers expect, it’s your reputation on the line!

Why Anxiety Takes a Toll

manager yelling at employees can create anxiety
No one wants to be a boss that promotes workplace anxiety.

The downside of this anxiety is that it takes a toll on your health and the well-being of the people around you.

Imagine a scenario where your employees are dealing with an easily irritate manager who seems to act on their whims. Or, an employee who defaults to hiding mistakes because they are afraid of bringing your attention to their faults. Or, maybe you just can’t stop turning over what seem to be good employees who have bent under the pressure.

If the above sounds like you (or someone you have placed in the position of manager), the good news is that there is hope. You can both ensure a quality product or service by your business and enjoy the process of building your business!

All of the above behaviors have a single root: anxiety. Numerous CEOs and business managers confide that the pressure they are under is simply enormous, but nearly impossible to convey to their team. Unfortunately, that unspoken pressure means that your team might be baffled as to why your stress level is perpetually at a ten.

You know you have to do better to help your business grow. The question is: “HOW?”

Small Changes with Big Emotional Impacts

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. More research studies demonstrate that the same emotional awareness practices that help individuals deal with anxiety may help managers more effectively manage their team dynamics.

So where can you start building your emotional intelligence and managing your manager’s anxiety?

  1. Start by acknowledging your anxiety with a simple statement. While it may seem silly, start by stating out loud: “I am anxious because <INSERT YOUR REASON>. It’s reasonable that I’m anxious because I care deeply about the work that I do.” If you are prone to lashing out at others or withdrawing from your colleagues, you might also remind yourself, “It’s okay for me to feel <HURT/ANGRY/SAD>, but it’s not okay for me to <YELL/WITHDRAW/PANIC>.” An emotionally healthy workplace impacts us all! As human beings, our reaction is often to dismiss our feelings as irrational, but by recognizing what we feel, we are practicing emotional intelligence. Acknowledging anxiety is the first step to taking the control away from your fear, anger, or sadness, and replacing it with self-acceptance.
  2. Ground yourself in the present. Many times, workplace anxiety manifests itself because we worry about what may happen in the future. When a work situation sends your anxiety and temper flaring, do yourself a favor. First, take five deep breaths: in for a count of five, then out for a count of five. (You’ll be surprised how quickly this takes your anger from a ten to a three!) Next, name one thing you can see, one thing you can feel, one thing you can hear, one thing you can taste. This is called “grounding,” and is a great way to recenter yourself to deal with the stressful situation. You might also consider stepping outside the office for a five-minute breath of fresh air. All of the above suggestions can help you reset your internal emotional compass and focus.
  3. Avoid the desire to catastrophize. You might immediately jump to describing a stressful situation or error as “the worst mistake ever.” The truth is, every human makes mistakes from time-to-time. Instead of focusing on how awful the error was, focus on the opportunity that it presents for you. What can you or a member of your team learn from the situation? What mistake can this prevent in the future? How can you use this situation to practice open communication with your team? By viewing the problem as a learning opportunity, you not only protect yourself against future mistakes, you demonstrate to others how to face a problem head-on. (Your problem-solving skills are probably why someone made you a manager in the first place!)

Laney’s Two Cents

three girls decreasing anxiety by practicing yoga in nature
photo credit: Z. Deuerling

I’m a big fan of mindfulness techniques and yoga practice for small business owners and managers. You will be surprised how quickly recognizing the emotional echo of your workplace can transform your team dynamics. (I’m also a fan of having your team get out in nature for a change of pace!)

The most important point is that you don’t have to build emotional intelligence from the ground-up. There are a number of great, free online resources out there to get you started. (For example, check out what the experts say on first steps to emotional communication in the workplace.)

What have you found to help you deal with the stress of being a manager? Share your tips in the comments!