New research shows that workplace performance anxiety (otherwise known as ‘stage fright’ in a business setting) doesn’t discriminate between the sexes, but has revealed the different reasons why men and women are seeking professional training to overcome anxiety around communicating at work.
A study of 1,000 workplaces conducted by RADA in Business, the commercial arm of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art that provides communication skills training for corporate individuals, has published the report Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, which found a disparity between the causes of communications anxiety between men and women.
Male employees are 45% more likely than women to feel anxious when socialising with their work colleagues, and 14% say specifically that having to make small talk with colleagues brings on the same feelings.
Team building events were also found to be more challenging for men, with almost a fifth (19%) reporting feelings of communications anxiety in relation to these types of occasion. Work social events followed, with 17% reporting the same feelings.
Claire Dale, Tutor at RADA in Business, commented on the findings: “Socialising in a work environment and at networking events require you to improvise as they are full of uncertainty.
“You never know who you might talk to and you may experience an awkward moment or two if you end up standing alone, deciding what to do next.
“The composer John Cage said that ‘chance favours the prepared mind’, so prepare your approach.
“If there is somebody you would like to talk to: think of your common interest, approach him or her, stand near, breathe, and wait for your moment to introduce yourself confidently and warmly, stating that common interest.
“Use open body posture to show that you are ready for conversation. Be curious about other people and try to draw people in by asking questions about themselves. Breathe, smile and take a chance.”
In contrast, the report found that female employees experience greater levels of anxiety when giving presentations in front of a group, to colleagues, or to management.
Sue Meadows, Tutor at RADA in Business said: “I believe in the power of rehearsing aloud to oneself.
“It is not that you are learning a script, but rather that you are practising the structure of your talking points. Aim for the point in which your argument is so embedded that one ‘buzz word’ can release a flowing narrative that sounds conversational, not robotic.
“A good opening line to engage your audience, and a closing line to land your overall point with your audience, is a nice way to shape your story.
“Physically releasing tension and utilising the breath to get into the zone is vital.”
Therefore, evidence suggests that while men require more help with skills around spontaneous communication, for women it is about standing their ground and getting their voice heard when stepping into the spotlight – often in situations that may have a significant impact on their career path. Notably, the research shows that women are also 39% more likely to experience workplace anxiety than men when in a job interview, and 37% more likely when negotiating a pay rise.
With the gender pay gap still prevalent in many fields of business, techniques that help women to overcome feelings of anxiety in these situations can enable them to negotiate career progression and pay rises with greater confidence and authority.
Despite the drivers of workplace performance anxiety varying so significantly, an equal number of men and women feel they would benefit from training on how to deal with the physical effects of communications anxiety.