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Workplace Anxiety

A new study shows workplace anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self regulate their behaviour. Do you agree in your organisation?

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  • Nitin, welcome to the forum. You'll have to forgive us but, when someone asks a question that sounds suspiciously like an assignment title, we tend to resist spoon-feeding them an answer. However, we do like to help students, so all we ask is that you share your own thoughts on the subject first and then we will chip in with our contributions.

    To be honest, even if this isn't you trying to answer an assignment on the sly, it would be nice to hear your thoughts in more detail first. And it would be even nicer to see a link provided to the study you mention so we can judge its merits.

    Evidence-based HR is all the rage!
  • Welcome to the community Nitin.
    Have you a reference for the new study? Do you agree with it?
  • In reply to David Perry:

    www.cipd.co.uk/.../positive-side-of-anxiety

    Thanks for your comment David. Reference attached above. The actual study is from Bonnie Hayden Cheng of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Julie M. McCarthy from the University of Toronto Scarborough.

    I agree with workplace anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self regulate their behaviour. As previously anxiety and mental health was viewed in a negitive way and employees wouldnt really speak up with problems they are suffering with in the work place. However I believe in modern society employers are now supporting and are asking employees to speak up to help support their staff. This I believe helps builds condifence and can boost performance.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thanks Robey. Although I am currently a student studying CIPD level 5, this is not an assignment queston. I wanted to get an overview and thoughts of other HR professionals to provide me with a better overview on Resourcing while undertaking this module.

    www.cipd.co.uk/.../positive-side-of-anxiety

    Reference attached above. The actual study is from Bonnie Hayden Cheng of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Julie M. McCarthy from the University of Toronto Scarborough.

    My personal thought is that II agree with workplace anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self regulate their behaviour. As previously anxiety and mental health was viewed in a negitive way and employees wouldnt really speak up with problems they are suffering with in the work place. However I believe in modern society employers are now supporting and are asking employees to speak up to help support their staff. This I believe helps builds condifence and can boost performance.
  • Johanna

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    23 Jan, 2019 12:10

    In reply to Nitin:

    Thanks for clarifying Nitin and welcome to the community :)

    I've seen first hand someone suffering from the results of sustained workplace anxiety (not at my current employer :)) and it manifested itself with difficult physical symptoms that required medical attention. So whilst a little adrenaline can keep us on our toes, generally sustained workplace anxiety doesn't sound like a positive thing to me at all. However resilience and a sense of perspective in handling the challenges work throws at us is also key - also training and coaching in the way we respect and communicate with our colleagues and work through problems - so as not to cause harm in the first place can be useful!
  • I agree with Johanna - anxiety isn't something I'd want to be driving performance in the employees I am responsible for.

    We all have different responses to stress, and some individuals thrive in environments that others would find unbearable because of the pressure they are under. When it starts making you unwell, it's not OK.

    However, I do think that recent changes in the way we ('we' as HR people but also 'we' as a generation) talk more openly about anxiety/stress/mental health mean that people are more likely to speak up when they're under pressure, but I think we have a long way to go still.
  • In reply to Robey:

    I'm with Robey in supporting evidence based practice.

    So the academics have developed a theory. I was unable to access the evidence on which the theory is built. Who did they study and in what context? I ask because we all know a lot of studies use students at the researcher's institution as subjects. If that was the case then I would ask if there is any difference between anxiety to pass exams and anxiety in workplaces.

    I would also like to know how we draw the line. How much anxiety is good for me? How do I know when it's moving towards being detrimental?

    Overall in terms of mental health support in organisations I still think it's better to address anxiety at the outset.
  • In reply to Nitin:

    I am afraid Nitin, that I disagree with you as, in my experience, anxiety is more likely to destroy confidence and while may boost performance in a very short period...at what cost has this been achieved?
    We do not know what peoples ability to handle stress is and we are not aware of what might be happening in their personal lives, I would be concerned that using anxiety to drive performance could be the proverbial straw to devastating consequences.
  • Without looking at the how and what of the study,

    I'd agree with it.

    Isn't it a bit like the fight or flight response?

    Just a little anxiety to get things right, done on time, to the best of your ability keeps you focussed and motivated.

    No pressure to do anything - just turn up for work and get paid makes many people lazy at work.

    The problem for me is that like many of these studies, it will be taken at face value by employers who think anxiety equals lots of pressure, pile on the goals, targets deadlines and just end up creating excess stress which is harmful.
  • In reply to David Perry:

    While we're questioning research methodology David you might like to know that the 'fight or flight' response has also been questioned. The majority of studies identifying it were carried out by men on men. It seems we females have an alternative stress response - tend and befriend - as this article explains: www.personalityresearch.org/.../mccarthy.html
  • In reply to Jenine Cooper:

    Being in a prolonged state of anxiety is surely not at all good for an individual’s bodily or mental health?. And doesn’t psychology teach that salivating dogs respond better than cowering / fearful ones and that positive reinforcement shapes behaviour far more effectively than negative? Not sure how the research studies cited dealt with this, but IMHO they should have.
  • In reply to Anna:

    Really interesting reading, thanks Anna
  • The question I am left with is "Does the study really represent reality?"
    By that I mean, has it tracked the effects over a sustained period of time?
    I also think it's a tall order for the average manager/employee to manage their own/their subordinates anxiety so that it stays in "the safe zone". I think there are lots of other, evidence based theories of motivation and performance such as Self-determination theory which are harmless and could be employed to create sustained motivation and performance.
  • I have a real problem with language that uses the term anxiety and portraying it as a strategy to improve performance. Nowhere in my experience of being a squash coach, interviewing an high performance athletes, or working with business professionals over the last 30 years, have I found anxiety a performance enhancing technique, quite the opposite. Anxiety inhibits, not enhances performance.