How to Recognize Symptoms of Anxiety in Your Team Members

Anxiety Symptoms
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Although it is normal for your team members to experience some anxiety, when anxiety begins to control and keep a team member from performing it becomes a problem. Anxiety is not an isolated condition, but it has many faces with various different symptoms. The following are some of the different anxiety disorders you may encounter:

  • Social Anxiety – A type of anxiety where a person fears crowds or public situations. This can range from eating in public to being among a large crowd in a store.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – It is the most common type of anxiety and is usually defined as a constant state of tension and panic. People suffering from this cannot identify the source of their anxiety and do not have anything in particular which they are worrying or obsessing over.
  • Panic Disorder – This type of anxiety is characterized by a constant state of confusion and fear which normally occur in sporadic episodes, or panic attacks. These attacks can cause symptoms such as shallow breathing, sweating, increased heart rate and physical pain.
  • Phobias – This type of anxiety generally focus on a particular thing or situation. People suffering from this will experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety when confronted with their phobia.

As a team manager or team leader, recognizing the symptoms of anxiety in a team member is important. The team member may not even be aware of the problem and you may be able to provide help before the problem escalates. The following are some symptoms for which to look out.

Avoidance of Social Situations

One of the common symptoms of social anxiety disorders is the avoidance of various types of social situations. Public parties or events, group meetings or giving presentations to large groups are examples of the types of social situations that will be avoided. The team member will look for excuses to avoid getting into these kinds of social situations. Do you have a team member that tends to shy away from the group, or always seem to be unavailable when it is time to make a presentation? You may have someone in your team who is trying to avoid social situations at all cost, and may need help to overcome it.

Difficulty in Accepting Negative Feedback

Team members suffering from some type of anxiety disorder will often have trouble accepting any sort of negative feedback. This is as a result of the strong link between anxiety and the fear of any form of rejection. Any negative feedback or even constructive criticism from team members or management is likely to be resisted or simply ignored. The team member experiences the negative feedback as a form of judgment which increases their feelings of being scrutinized or embarrassed.

If you are preparing to speak to a team member that you feel may not receive the information well, practice ahead of time and make sure you include key positive terms and phrases. Keep negative terms to a minimum and try and read how the team member is responding to the information. Be prepared to talk it out if necessary and check back with them to make sure they have understood what you are trying to say.

Difficulty in Focusing on Tasks

If a team member shows a lack of focus over a period of time and a variety of projects, it may be due to some form of anxiety.  External distractions such as coworkers and office noises often influence people suffering from an anxiety disorder more than what is normal. They tend to make assumptions about their surroundings such as “Are they talking about me?” or “Is that my computer making that noise”.  They also may be experiencing internal distractions such as hunger, paranoia or intimidation. You may not be able to remove all these distractions, but you can offer help in some way. If possible you can offer to work with them on a project, let them know you are available for questions and you can also make sure their work area does not contribute to their distractions.

Displaying Irrational Fears

It is normal to experience some fears or concerns, but when these fears control a team member’s behavior or seem to have no basis, they may interfere with his/her performance and can even affect those around them. Fear of missing a project deadline when they have completed the assignment and a fear of being fired are examples of irrational fears. The team member may appear anxious all the time or try and over-compensate for things. If not addressed quickly, these fears may overcome the team member’s ability to function as part of the team.



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