Let’s be real. Most of us who are struggling with social anxiety needs to hold down our job because their mouths to feed and bills to pay. And not all of us have the option to be engaged in a job that requires little to no interactions with further human beings.
If you’re still holding on to your job amid social anxiety, I commend you for your effort. Because those who have never experienced the fear of fellow co-workers would never understand the turmoil in your mind as you clock into work every day.
I hate to say this but suffering from social anxiety disorder puts you at a disadvantage in modern workplace culture that where soft skills are often perceived as essential to career progress. This means if you have problems talking with clients or colleagues, you’re stuck.
I spent 5 years of my career employed as an engineer in different companies. And another five striving to build my own business before that eventually failed. Now, I’m a freelance writer not by choice, but because of the demand for spending more time raising my child.
While I’m not a social butterfly in the company, there are some handy tips that I’ve tried that may be useful for you to manage social anxiety better in the workplace in key areas.
Talking to co-workers probably isn’t on the top of your fun list when social anxiety is rearing its ugly head. Cutting off communications is going to get you nowhere although that comes naturally when you have social phobia.
Often, you’ll be passed off as rude, anti-social and disrespectful when you’re avoiding interactions with your co-workers. Having such negative perceptions, even when they are not true, snuffs off opportunities in your career path.
At this point, you’ll feel that you’re in a hopeless condition, and pressured to socialize with every individual in the company. But that only worsen your fear. Instead, I’ll suggest making connections with co-workers within your department, or those who are seated within your vicinity.
This doesn’t mean you need to turn on a fake smile, hoping to be accepted by your co-workers. Social anxiety or not, it’s important that you establish a genuine relationship with others and that means taking things one step at a time.
Ensure that you remain courteous while taking a genuine interest in your co-workers. Rather than forcing yourself into small talks, ask questions that you’re actually curious about. Don’t worry if you don’t hit it off right away with your co-workers.
In the end, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’re on good terms with everyone in the company. Corporate politics, individual differences, and chemistry mean you may make a handful of really strong connections while remaining casual with the rest of them. And it’s perfectly fine.
There are moments where you wished to be sucked into a black hole and being called up by your superior is one of them. It got worse when you’ve heard rumors about how fellow co-workers got ticked off and berated for dismal performance.
When you have social anxiety, those are the self-sabotaging thoughts that are ever familiar to you.
You need to get used to the idea that you’ll be communicating with your superiors often throughout your career. In fact, communication is key to ensure that you received the right instruction and any problems that ensue are reported to your superior transparently.
The problem is, how do you start conversing with your superior without blushing, trembling and making a fool of yourself.
For a start, you’ll want to be respectful with your superior without being overwhelmed by fear. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re in a one-to-one meeting. To make things easier, always carry a notebook around. You can jot down points that you want to bring up to your superior or use it to note down conversations during the meeting. Either way, having a notebook helps to make you calmer during the meeting.
In some cases, such as requests for a raise, you may want to rehearse what you want to say prior to requesting the meeting. At the very least, you’ll need to be able to justify why you deserve a raise amidst your lack of interaction and that’s about producing solid figure-based results.
You have dozens of issues that you need to voice up in the coming meeting. As everyone scrambles into the meeting room, you feel the familiar sensation where social anxiety took over, and you’re left muted for the two hours of discussion.
Does this sound familiar?
In most organizations, employees are encouraged to contribute to the team and often needs to be seen doing so. It’s not a matter of sucking up to the superiors but with so many things on their plate, managers couldn’t afford to coax ideas from you.
Despite your social anxiety, you’ll want to shine in a meeting. To do that, you’ll want to feel empowered in the group. This means showing up to the venue earlier and greet some of the co-workers who showed up. This allows you to get familiar with the venue and not overwhelmed by the sudden crowd presence if you showed up last to the meeting.
Again, it helps to be prepared in advance with a list of agenda and ideas that you’ll want to voice up in the meeting. Practice speaking as you’ll want your voice to be heard clearly during the discussion.
If you’re feeling nervous, remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal. Chances are, more than half of your co-workers in the meeting are equally nervous about speaking up. All I could say is that speaking up in meetings and discussions gets easier after every attempt.
It’s inevitable that you have to attend seminars, trade-shows or sometimes pure networking event in your job. You could fake sickness to avoid from attending the functions but that’s not an elegant solution if you intend to progress in your professional career.
When social anxiety has been part of your life, you’ll have a tendency to conjure up horrific scenes of how you make a fool of yourself at these events. Or burdened by the need to ‘network’. Stop believing your thoughts and conforming to the typical conception of networking.
Instead, it helps by brushing up your knowledge about the events and potential attendees. This helps you to be prepared with common topics that you may engage someone into conversations. Striking a conversation with a stranger is unthinkable when you have social anxiety. But sometimes, a polite greeting and a friendly smile are all you need to get the words flowing.
It also helps you to get suited up to the occasion. It will be a nightmare to draw attention to yourself because you’re wearing casual wear to a black-tie event. Besides blending to the crowd, dressing up also helps to boost your self-esteem.
No, managing social anxiety at work is never easy. But it’s not achievable either. It’s going to be tough dealing with the emotions and fear of stepping into the workplace. But dealing with social anxiety needs grits and perseverance. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend but you don’t have to turn everyone away either.
I hope this article helps you in dealing with social anxiety in the workplace. Share it if you feel that it could help others who are suffering the same ordeal.
I am an engineer-turned-writer who once struggle with social anxiety. After overcoming problems inflicted by low self-esteem and the fear of interaction, I realize the need for taking a holistic approach in developing our mind. I'm sharing my experience, remedies, and techniques that interest me in my quest to be a better self.
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