Social anxiety disorder is also referred to as social phobia. And it’s much more common than you’d think. Social anxiety disorder is the third largest mental health problem in the world today according to the Social Anxiety Association. Although employees may feel that they can hide social anxiety disorder in their personal lives, it’s virtually impossible to do the same in the workplace. Let’s discuss what social anxiety disorder is, how you can detect if an employee is suffering from it and what, as an employer, you can do about it.
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is the intense fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and embarrassed by others. This leads to avoiding social situations that involve interaction with other people at all costs. As employers I’m sure you’ve seen how social anxiety disorder can have a negative impact on work performance and personal relationships. As a result social anxiety disorder can also significantly contribute to lost productivity. The good news is that social anxiety disorder is very treatable.
How can you recognize if an employee is suffering from social anxiety disorder?
People suffering from social anxiety disorder may exhibit any or all of the following behaviours:
- May be seen by others as being shy, quiet, withdrawn, unfriendly or aloof
- Avoid meetings and social situations, speaking in public or even talking one-on-one
- Difficulty meeting people in authority
- Rarely make eye contact
- Overwhelmed or upset easily
- Find it hard to make decisions
- Difficulty with time management and meeting reasonable deadlines
- Uncomfortable being watched while doing something
- Fear of taking on new challenges or learning new things
- Try too hard to be perfect
- Experience physical symptoms – racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, clammy hands, trembling, nausea, stammering or shaky voice
What can you do as an employer to help employees suffering with social anxiety disorder?
There are several things that you can do to help your employees deal with the day-to-day stressors in the workplace:
- Be open and accepting about mental health issues to reduce the stigma
- Show concern
- Improve mental health literacy in your organization
- Train supervisors and managers to recognize the symptoms of social anxiety disorder
- Make available and promote the benefits of an EAP program
- Encourage employees to seek care when they need it
- Ask your employee if they need additional support and what that support might look like
- Let your employee know what support services are available
- Accommodate your employee by finding the right type of work to match their comfort level
- Provide modified workspaces, flexible schedules or permission to take breaks when needed
Do you have a program in place to help employees with social anxiety disorder? It’s important to build a culture that demonstrates to all employees that they are cared for and valued. A supportive workplace inspires employees to feel loyal, dedicated and motivated which benefits the entire company.