How to Support an Employee with Social Anxiety
Imagine this. You hired a new employee who showed a lot of promise. Their experience showed that they are perhaps a stalwart in their field. Their performance has been so good that you decide to promote them and make them a team leader. You also feel that they have the potential to get your next client on board. Then the time for the presentation comes and you realize that they have a tough time with navigating social attention.
This is when it strikes you that every time you thought it was the work stress, it was actually your employee in need of social anxiety support. We completely understand. Today, when organizations thrive on competition, most employers find it a challenge to take special time out for understanding the intricacies of anxiety and empathy. However, if you are stuck in the boat of not understanding how to provide support to an employee with social anxiety, then here are some things you should know about:
First things first, what is social anxiety disorder?
We hear of a disorder and we often just leave it at that. Not many of us are aware of exactly what social anxiety entails. A socially anxious person ends up being in a state of intense anxiety and fear of being constantly judged. In order to manage their anxiety, these people avoid social situations that require them to interact with a lot of people. In a workspace, a social anxiety disorder can lead to lost productivity. Don’t worry though, here is some good news for you: social anxiety disorder is very treatable. However, to solve a problem, we need to first pay attention to the symptoms in order to provide the right social anxiety support.
Are you paying attention to the symptoms?
Here are some symptoms that your employee may be showcasing through their behaviors:
- They may be seen by other individuals as aloof, disinterested or shy.
- They may avoid social situations such as office parties, meetings or even try to evade situations that require them to talk one on one.
- They often panic or try to avoid situations where they have to meet authority figures.
- They try to avoid eye contact as far as they can.
- They get upset easily and may become totally overwhelmed.
- A socially anxious person finds it very tough to make decisions.
- They also try to embrace perfectionism and often suffer because of that.
- In rare cases, a socially anxious person may display physical symptoms such as blushing, excessive sweating, nausea, trembling and maybe even a shaky voice.
If you notice any of your employees showing these symptoms regularly, then here are some guidelines you can follow to provide support to an employee with social anxiety.
Big steps to take towards managing an employee’s social anxiety
Once you recognize the little symptoms that may be pointing towards your employee’s social anxiety, here are some more steps you can take to help them:
Don’t be too quick to judge
Do not let your definition of mental health get in the way of evaluating an individual. The biggest way you can provide support to an employee with social anxiety is by supporting them and helping them to feel comfortable. People often try to force employees to conform to their ideas of conventional work behavior which can make things tough for such individuals. If your employees feels like wearing headphones to help them during work hours, support that culture. Also, as long as their work is not being compromised, you can cut them a little slack and allow them to have lunch at their desks without glaring at them judgmentally.
Help them manage their perfectionism
The stress of a socially anxious individual with perfectionism is unparallelled. When their sense of perfectionism gets overwhelming, these individuals end up losing the sense of time and the borderline between achievement and obsession starts to wear thin. You will see them spending hours on unnecessary details for a presentation and almost killing themselves over it. So, set limits and deadlines. A socially anxious individual thrives well on structure. It can help them to learn when their efforts have been good enough to stop.
Set their roles with clear expectations
One of the biggest issues that get in the way of managing anxiety is the uncertainty of a job profile or the roles that a socially anxious individual has to fill. Define these roles clearly for them and take little steps like giving them a questionnaire or points of discussion before a meeting. This helps them reduce the anxiety of anticipation and be productive while getting over social anxiety at the same time.
What are some everyday steps you can take to support an employee with social anxiety?
- Always be open and work towards reducing the stigma of emotional disorders in your work environment
- Practice empathy and show concern.
- Find out how you can increase the level of mental literacy in the organization.
- Help leaders work towards their team’s mental health by making them aware of managers and supervisors.
- Let the employee know what kind of support services are available for them.
- Provide workspaces that are modified and that come with flexible schedules.
For one out of every four Americans, work is a major source of anxiety. These employees report that social anxiety really hampers their relationships with their co-workers. If you have been seeing the symptoms of social anxiety in some of your employees, then do not adopt a passive approach to this problem. Instead, actively participate and help them manage anxiety better.
If you feel that some of your top employees are not matching up to their potential because of this issue, then we are here for you. Book an appointment with us to provide expert support to an employee with social anxiety. Sometimes an employee may not feel comfortable speaking to their employer about their personal issues but our expert psychotherapists can surely help them navigate through this issue and help them with getting over social anxiety.