Anxiety at Work: A book review by Bob Morris

Anxiety at Work: 8 Strategies to Help Teams Build Resilience, Handle Uncertainty, and Get Things Done
Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton with Anthony Gostick
Harper Business (May 2021)

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Henry Ford

With substantial assistance from Anthony Gostick, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton share in this volume the most valuable lessons they have learned about how to provide high-impact leadership within an anxiety-free workplace culture. As Gostick and Elton explain, “There are two ways to refer to anxiety: the first is as a symptom of stress and worry; the second is as a classifiable disorder.” In fact, in the United States, “workplace anxiety is estimated to cost some $40 billion a year in lost productivity, errors, and health-care costs, while stress is estimated to cost more than $300.” I would not be surprised if, in fact, those annual costs are at least twice the estimates.

Gostick and Elton offer an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to create a healthy place to work, and do so by helping team members to

o Deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity
o Deal with overload
o Chart their own way to achieve common objectives
o Manage “perfectionism”
o Find their voice (e.g. expressing principled dissent)
o Provide help to marginalized team members so they will feel valued and accepted
o Build social bonds between and among team members
o Feel appreciation and gratitude that will build their confidence

Note: My own research based on dozens of major studies of both employee and customer satisfaction indicates that “feeling appreciated” is ranked either first or second in importance to them.

Gostick and Elton recommend a specific strategy to achieve each of these objectives. Most executives already recognize the WHAT and WHY of effective leadership. Gostick and Elton’s emphasis is on HOW. Be sure to check out the set of key points that concludes Chapters 2-9. When leading through uncertainty, for example, here’s their advice:

“Leaders can use a set of methods to help reduce uncertainty: 1) make it okay to not have all the answers, 2) loosen your grip in tough times, 3) ensure everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them, 4) keep people focused on what can be controlled,  5) have a bias for action, and 6) offer constructive feedback.” (Page 67, Chapter 2)

I am certain that Anxiety at Work will be Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton’s most valuable book thus far because it will have the widest and deepest impact. I congratulate them on a brilliant achievement.

For those about to read it, here are three suggestions of my own. First, keep a lined notebook near at hand while reading this book so that you can record your own comments, questions, insights, page references, action steps, etc. This will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. I also urge you to re-read each of the eight sets to which I referred earlier. Adopt and adapt whatever is most relevant to your organization’s given circumstances.

Finally, keep in mind that — in the final analysis– there are no HR or personnel issues, only [begin italics] business [end italics] issues. It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those most profitable and the best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment.

However different they may be in most respects, all of these companies accelerate the personal growth and professional development of their people, and, develop the leaders to which Lao-tse refers in this passage from Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”




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