Jennifer Newman: How to overcome workplace meeting anxieties

Workplace psychologist weighs in on how introverts can overcome feeling ignored and having anxieties on the job.

A calm confidence is key to successfully navigating through workplace meetings

(Getty Images/Westend61)

For the everyday introvert, workplace meetings can be the hardest part of the job. From feeling ignored to getting interrupted, interacting with colleagues can create a daunting atmosphere for those who lack confidence.

"Sometimes people feel as though their team isn't interested with what they have to say," workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Newman says employees suffering from workplace anxiety risk more than just being ignored.

"It can hurt your career. Promotions will pass you by. You'll earn less if you're seen as not contributing and your performance evaluations will suffer."

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says the way to overcome meeting anxieties is to stay calm and confident (Jennifer Newman)

Newman says self-reflection is the first step to solving the problem.

"It's important to manage your emotions and be able to recognize when you're feeling angry or feeling like you need to withdraw. If you choose the right way to react, you'll stay steady and determined to make your point.

She adds that what is being said during a meeting, is as important as how it's said.

"Watch your body language. You'll see people at meetings lean back with their arms at the side of their heads and then lead forward to start speaking. They automatically get the floor for that period of time"

It starts with the boss

Newman says making sure everyone on the team feels like they're being heard comes down to the boss. Here are three tips on how team leaders can manage their meetings more effectively.

1. Make room for introverts

Recognize the people who don't like speaking. Pairing employees up during meetings can allow them to open up and discuss their thoughts in a safer environment. Those smaller groups can then report to the group at large.

2. Be very careful not to humiliate

Watch out for publicly humiliating teammates. Even if it doesn't happen intentionally, shaming can really damage the confidence of someone who is already struggling with it. If someone hesitantly brings up an idea that they feel they are getting mocked for, it will be much more difficult to get them to speak afterwards.

3. Designate a devil's advocate

"If dissenting opinion or debate is hard to get on your team and you want to encourage it, get someone to play devil's advocate." By assigning someone different to the role each time, Newman says employees will be more comfortable speaking candidly.  

To hear more from workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman, click the audio labelled: Workplace Column - Heard at work


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