How To Deal With Social Anxiety At The Workplace


Social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people. It’s low self-confidence and in-fact a disorder affecting the professional and personal lives, impacting one’s capacity to socialize and interact with others.


A simple test to know whether some is suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is by asking three simple questions:

  • Are you extremely afraid of being judged by others?
  • Are you very self-conscious in everyday social situations?
  • Do you avoid meeting new people?


People suffering from social anxiety disorder apprehend that something may go wrong. Sometimes they are confused and not clear on what exactly is the cause of pain. They get stressed and feel challenged.   While social anxiety creates a great difficulty for the sufferers, it can be managed and treated.

Mental Illness?

Often a question is raised about whether Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a mental illness. The medical experts consider this a mental health illness, culminated from genetic conditions, childhood experiences, negative parenting styles and unusual brain functioning. According to The Social Anxiety Institute, Social Anxiety Disorder is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. It’s also considered as It is chronic because it does not go away on its own. 

SAD At Workplace

At the workplace, SAD affects the performance of the sufferers. They also lose relationships and at times create unnecessary issues out of imagination or apprehension. Colleagues see them as withdrawn, nervous, disengaged and avoiding. Peculiarly, on one hand, they want to get included and on the other, because of the low-confidence, they tend to withhold the initiative.

Symptoms Of SAD At Workplace

At the workplace, the following symptoms are seen amongst the sufferers of SAD.

  • Avoidance of interaction
  • Refuse opportunities of public speaking
  • Stress
  • Mismatch of words and actions
  • Nervous body language
  • Lows self-appraisal
  • Discomfort with new members in a team
  • Avoid participation at informal events


The workplace is a very challenging situation when it comes to coping with social anxiety. An employee spends a significant part of his active life here. There is a Performance appraisal, a simple need for making a presentation, a task to deal with conflicts, receive a delegation, create a new team, join a new boss, join an office party, etc.  Manging SAD is therefore very essential to remain and excel in the career.


The menace requires a concerted effort from the Individual sufferer to overcome the disorder. A number of Progressive Organisations have taken note of the increased cases of SAD at the workplace and are extending all possible help. The subject matter is still evolving and attracting the attention of one and all. Based on the interaction with / feedback received from the Medical experts, Mental Health Consultants and HR professionals, the following remedial measures are seen being taken.  

  • Awareness: Individuals are encouraged to appreciate that their fears and anxiety are unreal based on imaginations. This awareness solves more than half of the problem.
  • Training & Guidance: Individuals could take guidance and Training for better presentations, networking, confidence building, etc.
  • Support Groups/ Friends/ Co-workers: In a number of cases, the individuals with social anxiety find support groups, Co-Workers and Friends helpful. The help is given in the form of honest feedback, feeling of support, co-working, collaboration, and assistance.
  • Preparation for participation: Instead of avoiding participation at formal and informal events, Individuals should prepare well and participate, maybe in small steps.
  • Personal Wellness Plan: Self-Management is the best resort. One should be encouraged and supported in drawing out and implementing Wellness Plans: physical, psychological and emotional.
  • Memory Training: This helps individuals remembering names and network with confidence, recall data/information at meetings and feel confident at interactions.
  • Take Realistic Targets: Taking realistic targets and delivering better results improves confidence and reduces fear and anxiety.
  • Stay in contact: The network is the new currency of the Networth of people. Rather than avoiding, one should enhance one’s network and stay in touch with all.
  • Fact-fullness: By being factful at work, one would be free from imaginations and apprehensions. This helps people to move away from unreal feelings and behavior.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy/Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety has been found successful in a number of cases, as per the National Institutes of Mental Health-funded studies report. Appropriate therapy can help in changing values, beliefs, thoughts, actions and habits.  
  • Meditation: Regular practice of meditation helps people in distressing, improved calmness and confidence building.
  • Medication: Based on the intensity of the anxiety, medication is preferred. Some Medical experts feel that the medication should be resorted to after trying our psychological measures.

It’s sad that many suffer from SAD (Social anxiety Disorder) because of umpteen reasons. Untreated SAD can lead to long term illness. The secret of remedy is to identify, share, be aware and start working on the same at the earliest. Without prejudice to the power of Therapy and Medication, one would get very effective results through self- Management duly supported by colleagues, superiors and the management at the workplace. Competency should now include one’s physical and mental fitness in addition to the Leadership abilities and behavioural traits

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Dr. GP Rao, Founder & Managing Partner at GPR HR Consulting LLP. Dr. Rao is senior HR leader with over 37 years experience in entire gamut of Human Resource Management with SAIL, JK Organization, SK Birla group and Reliance Industries (in India and Malaysia) at Mines, Factories and Corporate offices. Dr. Rao has received a number of Awards including the Outstanding Contribution Award from National HRD Network, HR Leadership Excellence Award at Singapore and Achievers Awards at Colombo. He is associated with NHRDN, NIPM, ISTD, CII, ASSOCHAM and PHDCCI having held senior positions. He is on the advisory boards of a number of companies and business schools.


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