HR & Management

Senior directors feel workplace anxiety ten times per month

2 min read

10 January 2018

“Directors tend to be thought of as confident,” a Harvard Business Review report claimed. “After all, they routinely make decisions under conditions of uncertainty.” But that doesn’t mean they’re impervious to workplace anxiety.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) interviewed 84 CEOs and directors to gauge workplace anxiety and its impact on decision making. Close friends and family, alongside employees in the lower ranks, were also questioned regarding the selected individuals.

“We found that they were naturally inclined to play it safe, and were especially careful not to upset the apple cart when things were going well,” HBR said. “They are particularly driven to close ranks within their teams and stack their inner decision making circle with loyalists. The main takeaway, however, is that directors come face-to-face with workplace anxiety as well.”

In fact, directors feel the clutches of workplace anxiety ten times a month, cited by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Business (RADA) as twice the national average.

The RADA’s own research, conducted across 1,000 workplaces, indicated that 94 per cent of directors are anxious when it comes to communicating. Some 39 per cent cited networking with new business prospects and pitching as the situations where they felt most unsure.

“Our sample group agreed they were likely to experience workplace anxiety when the spotlight was turned on them and the outcome was solely dependent on the quality of their performance,” RADA explained.

“It can also be triggered when anticipating a conversation that involves conflict. Asking for a pay rise or dealing with disagreements or complaints ranked second and third respectively. Appraisals and performance reviews were also a cause of stress for many.”

Furthermore, 31 per cent claimed to feel nervous of being talked over or that their ideas would be shot down. A similar number worried people would think less of them.

“Boards may not have an easy way to assess anxiety in executives, but they should realise that anxiousness plays a meaningful role in the fortunes of firms,” HBR added. “For instance, an anxious executive’s risk-averse outlook may run counter to the board’s (or shareholder’s) vision for bold strategies.

“Although a CEO is unlikely to report anxiety, boards can be proactive by looking for the signs. They can also offer support and encouragement.”