How to handle social anxiety at work

There are times when we’ve all felt nervous speaking in front of a crowd or worried about giving a good impression on the first day in the office. For many of us, the tasks that we encounter in our everyday role can fill us with dread: presenting at a meeting, making an important phone call, attending conferences, or meeting new people. 

However, if you have social anxiety, these situations can be far more overwhelming and stressful, sometimes leading you to avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, there are some scenarios that may be part and parcel of your job role, so it’s useful to understand how to manage social anxiety at work so you can still be successful.

What is social anxiety? 

Whilst generalised anxiety can manifest in nearly all settings, people who identify with social anxiety overthink the potentially negative outcome associated with the social situation. Social anxiety causes us to fear judgment, worry about offending people and dislike being the centre of attention. 

For example, you may experience this when speaking in front of large groups of people, giving presentations, or attending important meetings. You might worry about what people will think of you. 

What if they think I’m not good enough and don’t value my work? 

What if they don’t want to work with me anymore? 

What if my boss doesn’t like my presentation and I lose my job?

Social anxiety can have a significant impact on your work life. You might not put yourself forward for opportunities or promotions because you want to avoid an interview panel, or you feel stressed at the idea of managing other people. 

How can I manage my social anxiety?

In the moment, it’s challenging to fight the feelings of fear and anxiety, but there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for when you encounter certain situations. Whilst managing social anxiety will be different for everyone, here are three techniques you can use to try to calm yourself.

1. Be present

When you’re faced with an impromptu chat with colleagues whilst waiting for a meeting to begin, it can be easy to turn to your phone to distract yourself from feeling uncomfortable. However, this distances you from the moment and gives off a negative impression to your co-workers.

If you don’t feel up to contributing, simply paying attention to the conversation and making eye contact can help to ease your worries. People are more likely to invite you into the discussion with questions if they see you’re engaged.

2. Watch your body language

Take a moment to look at your body language in the mirror. Notice how you stand or sit when in a social situation. Crossing your arms or slouching can make you appear closed off and won’t make you feel confident in a group setting.

Open body language is not only inviting for others but can also help you to relax, as you won’t be as focused on whether people will judge you, even if you’re not saying anything.

3. Ask questions

Social anxiety can sometimes make it difficult to contribute to conversations for fear of saying the wrong thing, offending someone by accident, or being embarrassed. Mindfully listening to your colleague and asking a question is an accessible way to be involved without being the centre of attention.

Your colleague will likely appreciate you being interested enough in what they have to say to want to know more, and you’ll be able to deflect attention away from yourself and onto someone else.

Struggling with social anxiety at work?

Would you like to feel more self-assured, confident in your day-to-day work activities, and assertive, so you’ll feel more included, valued, and part of the team?

With our course handling social anxiety at work,  you’ll feel safer and more confident amongst your co-workers. You’ll develop the habit of positive thinking, and will be able to go about your working life without social anxiety being in charge.