Ms. Effmert, in your practice you advise people who have fears at work. What problems do employees come to you with?
With very different. Some are afraid of colleagues or superiors. Others are afraid of making mistakes or embarrassing themselves in certain situations. Restructuring in the company often triggers insecurities up to and including existential fears. The fear of returning to work after a long home office phase is very noticeable at the moment.
What are home office returnees afraid of?
Often before direct social contact. That they share an office with an unwelcome colleague again, have to physically go to meetings again, go to the canteen and other situations that they managed to avoid for two and a half years. If you are anxious about socializing and then have to get out of your comfort zone at home, it can be a burden. Many no longer dare to do this.
What is your advice to someone who is afraid of having to go back to the office all the time?
In that case, one way might be to take it step by step. First of all, only go there by the hour and at times when it is not so crowded. Or bring your own food until you feel like you canteen again. In general, it is always about making yourself aware of the situations you are afraid of in the first place.
Everyone knows that sometimes they don't feel like working at all or feel uncomfortable when thinking about a certain task. Where is the line between a bad feeling and fear that you should do something about?
To a certain extent, it's perfectly normal that the thought of work can be stressful. A bit of nervousness before an important presentation can even be a good thing, because a certain adrenaline rush makes you pay more attention. It becomes worrying when you can no longer switch off and constantly think about work. When you're looking for excuses as to why you can't give the presentation. Or if you regularly need to calm down with a glass of wine or other drugs to calm down.
Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques help, as does thinking through scenarios. For example, you can ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? In a presentation, that would be the blackout. And then I just play through what I'll do if it comes to that. Do I just go one step further, do I start again, or do I openly admit that I have lost the thread? If you play it through in your mind beforehand, it loses much of its horror.
What other tricks are there?
There are many little psychological tricks. An effective exercise is: Giving a different voice to an incriminating thought. For example, if someone thinks, "Oh god, did I word this email too harshly?" alienate this thought with a Mickey Mouse voice in their head. Then this fear doesn't feel so bad anymore.
Do men's and women's fears of the workplace differ?
It's difficult to generalize. Maybe women struggle a little more with issues like bullying. In fact, I have more men in my practice, especially in managerial positions.
Men in leadership positions? What are they afraid of?
Bosses are often afraid of their employees. Many superiors have the problem that they move away from their original technical expertise with increasing managerial tasks. And then they have a lot of people under them who have more technical knowledge. Finding out as a boss that the employees are much more technically competent is also frightening. It's easy to feel like a dabbler.
And how do I convince myself that I'm not a phony?
By not focusing on what I can't do, but on what I'm good at. There will usually be something there, otherwise you wouldn't have gotten into the position. By the way, actively raising awareness of your strengths helps everyone to be less anxious.