By Clare Freer, Account Director at Onebright
Employees who experience nervousness before presentations often face work performance anxiety, which can hinder their ability to effectively communicate their ideas. A psychologically safe work environment helps individuals to discuss their anxieties and seek feedback without fear of judgment, reducing their nervousness and improving their overall performance.
A key aspect of enabling psychologically secure workspaces is gaining complete endorsement from management and the CEO. It’s an investment in a culture that not only benefits the employees but also leads to tangible business outcomes.
A key aspect of understanding performance anxiety is how it looks and manifests in the workplace, and how line managers can create an environment of psychological safety to support individuals in reaching their potential.
Navigating psychological safety has fast become a priority for leaders to take an active role in showing their concern for their workforce. Here are some ways senior leadership can approach psychological safety:
Spotting nervousness and performance anxiety
Performance anxiety is a form of nervousness typically present before or during work-related tasks. It can be challenging to identify for managers and team leaders as it is not a visible or physical ailment; however, with attention to subtle signs, managers can recognise when their employees may be struggling.
What are some signs an employee has performance anxiety?
Watch out for consistent signs of discomfort, such as fidgeting, avoidance of eye contact, or excessive sweating. Employees with performance anxiety may also exhibit overcompensation behaviours, such as working excessively long hours or becoming excessively meticulous with their work.
Another sign is changes in social interaction. This may include employees becoming withdrawn, avoiding participation in meetings or group activities, or displaying unusually nervous behaviours during presentations or public speaking events.
Remember, these symptoms may also be associated with other conditions or circumstances outside of work. Therefore, spotting them should not lead to jumping to automatic conclusions but rather serve as a useful starting point for sensitive communication and support.
Promoting psychological safety and support requires expert mental health training
Promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace isn’t a one-off activity. It’s a sustained effort that involves fostering an environment of psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and mistakes without fear of punishment or judgment.
- Start with open communication. Encourage employees to share their feelings and thoughts and listen empathetically when they do. Reinforce that it’s okay to seek help and that doing so does not reflect negatively on their professionalism or competence.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance. Encouraging employees to take time off, disconnect from work-related communications outside of office hours, and pursue activities they enjoy can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels.
- Foster a culture of recognition and positive reinforcement. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are likely to experience lower levels of anxiety. Regularly acknowledge your team’s efforts, celebrate their achievements, and provide constructive feedback.
- Offer access to mental health resources. Ensure your team members know what resources are available to them and how to access these services. This can range from Employee Assistance Programs to mindfulness training or providing clinically approved literature or approved websites providing information on mental health.
- Additionally, consider providing mental health training to your management team on mental health first aid, equipping them with the skills to recognise and respond to signs of mental health challenges, including nervousness caused by work performance anxiety.
Why does psychological safety matter?
Addressing and finding ways to improve the conditions of employees is a crucial part of an inclusive company culture. As a HR professional or line manager, there are many opportunities and responsibilities to help to foster an environment that reduces mental health stigma in the workplace and helps our team members feel seen, supported, and valued.
It’s also important to remember that the signs of performance anxiety can be subtle, and creating a supportive environment is an ongoing process. But with empathy, open communication, and a commitment to mental health awareness, organisations can create an environment for everyone to thrive in.