Be Tactful When Reeling in an Anxious Coworker

Every office has a worrywart, the person so paranoid about every turn and event that working alongside them becomes a nightmare. Dealing with these types of teammates requires a firm approach.

Every office has a worrywart, a person so paranoid about every turn and event that working alongside them becomes a nightmare. That's because no one likes having to deal with negativity all the time. It's also because over-anxious people are often unable to make sound decisions, says Anne Fisher over at Fortune:


"Anxiety is also among the most-studied of garden-variety neuroses, and some of the research offers useful clues on why people 'go straight to the worst-case scenario.' ... An article in the current issue of the journal Nature Neurosciencefor instance, reports on a study that found a chemical glitch in the higher-order decision-making circuitry of anxious people’s brains that causes them to respond to everything as if it were a catastrophe."

Fisher's piece is a response to an inquiry related to an over-anxious boss. Her approach works just as well when you're dealing with a peer. In short, smother the paranoia with a firm brand of kindness:

"Since anxiety sufferers have significant trouble dealing with uncertainty, minimize it as much as you can. 'Sometimes very anxious people don’t see the forest for the trees,' says Ben Dattner, a psychologist who heads up New York City executive coaching firm Dattner Consulting. 'So point out the forest.'”

Fisher says to provide a context that will shine the light of reality upon your coworker's concerns. The important thing is to not let the contagious nature of anxiety and negativity infect your own mindset. If their over-anxious behavior continues to the point where it inhibits your own ability to fulfill your goals, consider speaking to a higher-up about how to minimize the negativity in your workspace.

Below, Big Think expert Kate Pickett discusses how anxiety influences society:

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