Optimist Performance

Our jobs are or can be, for many of us, a source of stress and anxiety, and since in May we have Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to talk about some of the most common causes of anxiety at work and what leaders can do to help with it.

What can cause anxiety at work and what can leaders do to help?

There are many things that can cause anxiety at work. Every person can feel anxious or stressed about different situations.

In the same way, not everyone will have the same needs, so while it would be impossible to offer a one-size-fits-all solution, we’ve tried to compile a list of the things that seem to cause anxiety for a large group of people and think of what leaders can do to help. 

Unrealistic deadlines and work overload 

We live in a busy world, where everything seems urgent. So, as leaders, we need to be conscious of how much we are asking of our team and how this impacts them. 

Having honest and open conversations about time requirements and realistic deadlines is the first step towards avoiding anxiety. 

It can be easy to underestimate the time it takes to complete a task, on the other hand, when we have more expertise, we can assume that people will do things as fast as we would. But we need to remember that it’s not us doing the task. Instead, we need to consider who is completing the job and how long they need to do it. 

This said, there are always going to be urgent matters, but it is our job as leaders to clarify what the priorities are and ensure that our teams have the time and space to carry them out. 

Feeling a lack of control

For people who like to be in control, this can be a really stressful situation. Again, it’s our job as leaders to work with our teams to ensure they have as much control as possible over their jobs. Having autonomy and control is also a great way to increase accountability and motivation.

Trust is a must when it comes to control. As leaders, we need to allow others to take ownership of their jobs by giving them autonomy. However, we can see how this can be challenging for some people, which is why agreeing on deadlines, outcomes, or metrics can help both sides feel more comfortable about it.

Not having enough support, direction or information

This becomes even more challenging when working from home because you can’t just turn around and ask. So, making sure everyone has all the information they need to carry out their jobs is an essential part. 

It’s also a must to ensure that there are enough channels of communication and support between the team, no matter where people are working from. If you work from home and even at different times, how are you ensuring everyone feels supported? This is not an easy task, but the first step would be to understand what people’s needs are. 

This is something we can relate to. For example, we have some people in our team who need more interactions throughout the day, so we ensure regular check-ins with them. 


This can be particularly stressful when companies are undergoing big changes. As humans, we don’t like uncertainty, but as leaders, we can help our team navigate it in a more positive way. 

(Read our article “looking at uncertainty the Optimist Way”)

We need to be open and honest with our teams in order to help them deal with uncertainty. It’s also important to show our vulnerability and admit that we don’t know it all. And even if it seems obvious, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of listening. Opening channels of communication where people can express their feelings about the situation and ensuring that it’s okay to use them can be a great way to deal with uncertainty. 

Toxic or negative environments

It’s not difficult to imagine how a negative or toxic environment would cause us anxiety. This is why it’s so important to work on our culture and how we carry it out that culture day in and day out. 

We work with clients to help them do just this, and while we know it’s not an easy task, we know it needs to start at the top. 

(Read our article about how poor managers are back for your health)

Real cultures are not the words on the wall, the real culture is how people behave daily within the organisation. Taking the time to work with your team and think about your company’s real values and how each person understands and lives and breathes those values is the first step towards a great workplace. 

The Optimist View…

As we mentioned before, there are many situations that can cause anxiety and there is no one-size-fits-all rule for dealing with it. However, we think it’s the leader’s job to care about their team members and make sure they do everything within their power to ensure everyone feels great at work. 

If you want to know more about how to work with your team to create a great culture, get in touch with us. We love working with companies that care about their employees and realise that investing in them is the best road to success.