Julie McCarthy, University of Toronto – Workplace Anxiety

McCarthy (2)How does anxiety affect the workplace?

Julie McCarthy, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto, explains the problems that arise from feeling stressed at work.

Julie M. McCarthy, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management  and John P. Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management, at the University of Toronto Scarborough and UofT’s Rotman School of Management and Bonnie Hayden Cheng,  Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Workplace Anxiety

AMico

Is now the age of anxiety? It would certainly seem so, particularly with the fast-paced and high pressure corporate environment that many of us work within. In fact, there is evidence that anxiety levels across the globe are at all-time high.  In a new study, we examined the impact of workplace anxiety on job performance.

We examined 267 officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and found evidence that workplace anxiety comes at a high cost. To be specific, it leads directly to employee burnout, which, in turn results in lower levels of job performance. This means that workplace anxiety is detrimental for employees who are trying to stay healthy, who are trying to balance their lives, and who are trying to climb the corporate ladder. It also means that workplace anxiety is detrimental for organizations who are trying to succeed in today’s competitive markets.

So what can we do? Our research also considered factors that may reduce the harmful effects of anxiety. We focused on the quality of relationships that the officers had with their peers and their supervisors. Findings indicated that interpersonal relations can play an important role. Specifically, anxious workers were much less likely to exhibit signs of burnout when their peer relations were strong.

In addition, workers who already exhibited signs of burnout were much less likely to exhibit poor job performance when their supervisor relation was strong.

Therefore, a key to managing workplace anxiety is the development and maintenance of strong social support networks. In other words, social support can provide the resilience for dealing with high levels of workplace anxiety. Now may be the age of anxiety, but it should also be the age of interpersonal connections.

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