Can A Little Anxiety Help Managers Be More Successful?

It turns out that anxiety can be a useful tool for managers
It turns out that anxiety can be a useful tool for managers
Image Credit:
Sharon Sinclair

I guess that I can only really speak for myself here, but I do not like having to wait to learn the answer to something. At work it can be news of an upcoming layoff, whether the company won a big new contract, or what this year’s bonus program is going to look like. No matter what I’m waiting for, the process of waiting is the hardest part for me despite all of my IT manager skills. Where things start to get interesting is when you realize that there is a way to “wait well”…

The Problem With Waiting

When I am waiting to find out the answer to something, I find myself in a bit of a bind. I want to believe that I’m about to get some good news – things are going to turn out well for me. However, there is always the possibility that I’m going to end up being disappointed and there is no IT manager training for dealing with that. If I forget about the bad news and just assume that I’m going to be learning some good news, I run the risk of being caught flat footed.

People who spend time taking a look at how we deal with anxiety have reached some interesting conclusions. What they have discovered is that if while we were waiting we spent some of that time being worried, then we will have done a great deal of the psychological work that is required to deal with the outcome no matter what it turns out to be. The researchers have learned that people who spend their waiting time feeling anxious or pessimistic or ruminate while they are waiting for some results to be revealed to them end up being better prepared for bad news and happier when they get good news.

We all have different “coping strategies” that we use when we are sitting around waiting to get some news that could be either good or bad. Some of us sit around hoping for the best, we may look for a silver lining in whatever we are going to be told, or we may try to not think about the news that we are going to be getting. Some of us even use a strategy called “proactive coping”. When we do this, we are planning how we’d cope if the news that we’re going to get turns out to be bad news. The bad news is that it turns out that none of these coping mechanisms really work. The don’t reduce our distress and some of them even make it worse.

How To Wait Well

So if we know what does not work, what should we be doing when we are waiting on news that could be good or bad? It turns out that we are really going to want to do is to agonize through our waiting period. Oddly enough what we are going to want to do is to spend our time feeling anxious and pessimistic instead of trying to minimize our anxiety and worry. The reason that we want to do this is because if we do then we will end up responding more productively to bad news and will be happier if we get good news.

One of the most important things that we need to do when we are waiting to get news is to stay in the present. There is a cycle to this waiting period that starts with us feeling more pessimistic at the beginning of a waiting period as well as at the end. What you need to do is to use the middle period of time to get yourself involved in an activity that will occupy you. This will help you to make it through the waiting time.

One other thing that you are going to want to do is to delay your worry for as long as you can. Since some worry is actually a good thing, you are going to want to pick a date before you will be learning the news and prevent yourself from worrying about what you will learn before then. As with all such things in life, you may start to worry before that date shows up. If that happens, then remind yourself that worrying is a natural part of life and convince yourself to stop worrying.

What All Of This Means For You

At different times we all face situations where we are waiting to get some news. The news can either be good or bad. The way that we deal with the time before we learn what the news is can be critical – do we choose to spend our time worrying or do we disregard what we are waiting for?

You might not realize this, but the people who study how we deal with anxiety have discovered that in order to be ready for the news no matter if it is good or bad, we would be advised to spend at least a part of our time being worried. Different coping strategies that we may come up with won’t work. Instead, the experts tell us that we should learn to wait well and spend a portion of our time feeling anxious and pessimistic. While we are doing this we need to stay in the present and schedule the time that we’ll start to worry about what we’ll learn as the time for the news gets closer.

Waiting to get some news that may turn out to be bad news is never a fun thing to do. However, since we seem to find ourselves in this position far too often, we need to learn how to deal with it. It turns out that being worried is actually a good idea because it helps us deal with what we are eventually going to learn. Next time you find yourself waiting, spend some time doing a good job of worrying.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you are waiting to receive some news, do you think that you should allow other people to see that you are worried about what you may soon learn?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – we are all busy. I mean really busy. We may start out a week with the best of hopes about what we’d like to be able to accomplish; however, generally by the time that we hit Wednesday things have been turned upside down on us and despite our manager skills we have very little hope of being able to get everything done that we had been hoping to do. This change in plans can have a big impact on any meetings we’ve planned: we may have to postpone them.