Office Hours: Don't be the worry wart at work


Are you a worrywart at work? The kind who worries about everything, or the kind who makes everyone else worry about everything?


The first kind is the one we typically think of, a person who worries a lot. But in preparing this lesson, I was surprised to learn that Worry Wart was a comic strip character, created in 1956 by cartoonist J. R. Williams for his strip "Out Our Way," who caused others to worry.


So, some of us worry, and some of us cause others to worry. In today's lesson, we'll talk about why neither is good for the workplace.


Worrying at work


Worrying is as an obsession of the "what ifs." What if I make a mistake with the new software? What if I don't fit in with the rest of the team? What if no one reads this month's lesson? It's that idle space that represents the undisciplined part of our mind. Left unattended, it snowballs into epic worrying!


We worry about a lot. In a Jan. 11, 2016, article, "10 things you really shouldn't bother worrying about at work," in the UK's The Telegraph, Rhymer Rigby shares a list that he thinks is full of needless worries. He includes things like worrying about people who are doing better than me and what co-workers will think if I take a sick day. They all center around people's perceptions of us, which as we know, are something we can't control.


Kate Douthwaite Wolf, in an article, "4 times you're too worried," on, acknowledges that it's more about context - when we should worry - not what we worry about. She says people worry needlessly when the boss calls them to an unscheduled one-to-one meeting, they make a mistake, a project of theirs is reassigned or they're not included in a meeting or event. Her point is, if this happens only occasionally, don't worry. She says we should worry if it's part of a pattern or is happening more frequently.


But discerning the difference can be difficult, since one of the reasons we worry so much is because the second kind of worrywart makes us paranoid and afraid. That worrywart uses intimidation, threats and fear to get results.


If that's you, are you really getting the result you want from the pressure you impose, or are you constantly frustrated by a lack of results? Try a different approach: Get a mentor, learn about management, talk to your team rather than barking at them.


I understand why we worry. If worrying was an Olympic competition, I'd win the gold! I just don't think it's ever good to worry - be concerned, yes, but not worried.


Worrying is good for nothing and bad for our health. It's unproductive at best, and harmful to our physical, mental and emotional health at worst. A Feb. 19, 2017, HuffPost article by Darius Foroux, "If you worry a lot, you need to read this," warns about the impact of worrying. Worrying increases cortisol. Cortisol makes us more susceptible to all types of disease and illness. If reading this is making you worry about all the negative impacts of your worrying, stop thinking and keep reading.


Working through the worry


Working through worry is not instantaneous. It's a deliberate process of self-discipline. Dustin Wax, in a article, "The work of worry," says it takes "about as much work to do or fix the thing we're worried about as it does to worry about it." Good point. First we need to replace worrying with doing something about what we're worried about.


Foroux talks about self-monitoring as a way to address worrying by documenting "things that I worry about" - big or little things. He tells us to think of solutions and then put them into action, instead of letting that undisciplined mind of ours be in charge. He also says we need to accept, not worry, about things "you have zero control over."


A second important aspect to worry less is how we think. What Allison Carmen, in an April 10, 2015, article, "4 strategies for less stress and worry at work," offers focuses on getting and keeping perspective, which worrying can decimate.


Being grateful, celebrating successes, being aware that we are in worry mode and considering more than the negative possibilities can keep us in a place where the context is clear and our perspective is healthy.


Bottom line: If you worry, think about it as concern, not worry, and be proactive and address your concerns. If you're one of those who make others worry, decide if the payoff is worth being this type of person at work. If we worry less, we'll have more energy and time to focus on the important stuff, like doing our job and enjoying our career.




Written by Dr. Santo D. Marabella