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RebeccaLewis_Nov2013_worried-woman

5 ways to stop worrying at work

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Close to 65% of women are “worriers” at work, according to a recent report by CDR Assessment Group, which measures risk factors affecting the workplace.

The report, titled “Cracking the Code to the Glass Ceiling”, found that while the majority of women fell into this category, men were more likely to be ” egotists” and “rule breakers”, which, according to the report, are traits not as likely to work against them in the office.

Although this particular study is not hugely scientific (being based on a sample of just 137 female and 123 male leaders) it does raise the age-old question about what exactly is holding women back.

There’s plenty of evidence surrounding women not necessarily reaching the same professional heights as men – for example, women only hold 4.2% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 and Fortune 501 companies.

Nancy Parsons, author of the report and CDR’s CEO said in the report that women tend to be “cautious decision makers and slow up the process” while men “push forward hard and fast”.

“Clearly, the over-confident and aggressive behaviors exhibited more by men leaders are viewed as “leader-like” by the promotional power brokers. The glass ceiling is evidence that it has not been going well for the women,” she says in the report.

“Bottom line, under pressure, many women default to self-defeating, diminishing behaviors that take them out of the leadership limelight and pipeline. Women, by their own ineffective coping strategies, often pull themselves out of the running, promotionally speaking.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the white paper, if you find yourself thinking you might be a “worrier” and are looking to change how you might be perceived, here are a few tips to help you.

1. Don’t second-guess yourself

In the CDR survey, the majority of men were “upstagers” or “rule breakers” which are both attributes that signify the ability to take action as well as credit for those actions.

I’m not saying these two attributes are always a positive thing (they’re not) but they certainly are the opposite of second-guessing yourself. Teach yourself how to make decisions and stick to them. Your intuition about what is the correct way to approach an issue is always stronger than you think.

2. De-stress. Stressing out makes you worried.

I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed about something at work, I worry about the fact that I am stressed. I worry I might not be getting enough sleep because I’m thinking about work, and then, of course, I don’t sleep because I’m thinking about this.

I’ve always advocated a culture of normal working hours to help beat work stress, but lately I’ve had to establish a new rule: If something cannot be addressed until the morning, don’t spend all night worrying about it.

3. Ignore the pressure to be good at everything all the time

This is a tough one because the nature of Singapore’s working culture is all about being better, brighter, faster. But the pressure we put on ourselves to be the best can be hugely detrimental to our own success – and it makes us worry too much.

A friend, who is a working mum, once said to me, “you can do anything if you stop trying to do everything”, and I think it’s a great piece of advice that can be used in multiple facets of your life.

Focus on your strengths and work on being the best you can be at them first. When you have satisfied your personal achievements in one area, then you can start building capabilities in others.

4. Look at the bigger picture. Is what you’re worrying about really worth it?

I’ll bet anything you can think of a time when you thought you had truly screwed up at work. Remember that? It seemed like such a big deal at the time, but I’m betting now your life and career has moved on, and you’re mostly fine, on the whole.

It sounds trite, but ask yourself these questions when you start freaking out about something: Will it matter in 20 years? What about 10 years? How about 5 years? How about next week?

It can be hard to see the big picture in an instant-gratification world, but thinking ahead about how an issue willreally affect you and your colleagues or boss can help to calm the situation.

5. Communicate your concerns with others

It’s not rocket science – if you have concerns about something at work, talk to someone about it. Depending on the situation, talk to your boss, a colleague or someone else in the same industry you’re close to.

If you can’t do that, unload onto a willing friend or family member or, failing that, talk to a professional. If work provides counseling, make use of it, and if not, have a look around to see if you can find help elsewhere.

There is always someone to talk to, and if there’s not someone immediately available, do what I do – address the problem by writing it down. Seeing it penned down on paper suddenly makes things seem less scary, and it allows me a bit of time to reflect and come up with ways to fix a problem. It also helps to do this right before you go to bed, so you don’t spend all night worrying.

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