Social anxiety at work is often characterized by an intense and persistent fear of performing poorly in a social or professional setting and can have a significant impact on an individual’s career and quality of life.

It may lead to missed opportunities, strained relationships with colleagues, and job-related stress. Individuals with social anxiety at work experience significant distress and anxiety in various work-related social situations, which can impact their job performance, career advancement, and overall well-being.

People experiencing social anxiety at work is more common than you might think so read on to learn more about how to recognise and respond to this condition.

Common Triggers for Social Anxiety at Work

The most common situations that can trigger social anxiety at work include:

  • Meeting and interacting with colleagues
  • Public speaking or presentations
  • Interviews and job performance reviews
  • Team building and social events
  • Using shared spaces e.g lunch rooms, rest rooms, open plan areas
  • Seeking help or clarification from colleagues.

Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety

For people who suffer with social anxiety at work, the symptoms and impact can vary but often include:

  • Excessive self-consciousness and fear of judgment or criticism
  • Intense anxiety before and during social or performance situations
  • Avoidance of situations or extreme discomfort when exposed to them
  • Physical symptoms like trembling, sweating, blushing, or a racing heart
  • Negative self-perception and persistent negative thoughts about oneself
  • Difficulty concentrating and speaking coherently in social situations

If you have experienced 3 or more of these symptoms on a regular basis over the last 6 months at work, chances are you might be suffering to some degree with social anxiety. So what can you do about it?

5 Tips to Help You Manage Social Anxiety at Work

1. Know yourself

Increasing your awareness of what triggers your social anxiety at work can help you be more prepared when social anxiety might strike. Try answering these questions so you can be more prepared if social anxiety strikes:

  • What does social anxiety feel like in my body?
  • What types of situations trigger my social anxiety?
  • What am I trying to avoid?

2. Control the Controllables

By taking action on the things that you can control, you prepare yourself to be more ready and build your confidence before your anxiety is triggered.  For example, if you’re giving a presentation rehearse it a few times the night before. If you’re part of a team meeting, know the agenda ahead of time.

3. Focus on what you want

Visualization has been used for decades to improve performance in many different settings and can be used to your advantage to manage social anxiety at work. Take a few minutes to visualize your high-pressure situation. Visualize yourself performing in this situation the way you would like to be.  Repeat this 5-10 times before the real situation occurs. These visualizations will help you be tuned toward success and have the mental agility to overcome whatever might arise.

4. Box Breathing

Box breathing is a helpful strategy to use minutes before entering a situation that could spike your anxiety. 3-5 rounds can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, slow down your anxious thoughts, and reduce you stress levels. Follow these steps to complete one full round of breath:

  1. Empty your lungs of all air
  2. Breath in for 4 seconds
  3. Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  4. Breath out slowly for 4 seconds
  5. Hold your breath for 4 seconds

Repeat this sequence for 3-5 rounds.

5. The Mental Countdown

This strategy that helps you overcome your tendency to try and avoid situations that trigger your social anxiety at work. Start by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Then, count backward from 5 as you prepare to face the situation. 5-4-3-2-1, and once you get to 1, it’s go time – walk in ready to do your best (perhaps based on what you’ve been visualising).


If you recognise social anxiety is causing you distress at work, please reach out to Ahead Psychology EAP to make an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists. With proper treatment and support, you can learn to manage your social anxiety and thrive at work.