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How a little anxiety can make you a better employee

The Yerkes-Dodson Law- performance analysis


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Tallulah Goldsmith

2 years ago | 2 min read

Reading a fascinating LinkedIn post, it became apparent to me that many ‘overthinkers’ have been making use of their workplace anxiety, their care for success, and ‘zest for work’ to their advantage. The science behind this can be explained in part by the phenomenon of the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which presents the relationship between pressure and performance.

The Yerke-Dodson Bell Curve, Healthline

When you give people just the right amount of preparation time, and an adequate skill set to support them, their performance is nutured.

Measuring a zest for work and general enthusiasm has long been discussed, and it is undoubtedly useful to have as many employees as possible who are passionate about your company goals, the roles that they play, and their power to tackle new things (open-mindedness).

These employees also happen to care a lot about their workplace performance.

It is easy for a recruiter, when presented with a passionate, all guns blazing and confident extrovert to consider this candidate as the best for the job. However, it is care and quiet confidence that supports the Yerkes Dodson Law, where individuals who feel an adequate pressure and anxiety towards the task at hand will perform best.

Introverts, overthinkers, can make for impressive employees, and whilst they may be quiet with the minor successes, their major wins will speak for themselves.

The flipside we must consider is those who jeopardize their own performances, through overwhelming themselves with an unbearable pressure. Perfectionism can fall into this category, alongside imposter syndrome and to a degree and in a roundabout way, micromanaging.

To keep your anxiety in check, and therefore ensure that performance pressure doesn’t build, it can be useful to make sure you are worrying with purpose. Are there areas of this task that are out of your control? Then it’s time to let go of that stress.

Practice only worrying about the things you can control. Sometimes, things are going to go wrong… mistakes and rejecting perfectionism is crucial to taking some pressure off of yourself, and it will make you a better employee.

Bosses and employees alike could also try scheduling some time for organised tantrums. Did something go completely wrong? Great- let it out. Holding onto grudges or self resentment when you’re frustrated at work is terrible for organizational health, and supporting your employees to improve from their mishaps will help to keep that ‘zest for work’ that you employed them for in the first place alive.

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. If strong anxiety has poorly impacted your performance, it will continue to do so again and again. 

Regardless of workplace position, this doesn’t have to be the case, and owning your reservations about your own abilities, as well as leaning on others when you’re doubting youself, is crucial.

My last word-

being an overthinker should not hold you back, and as a matter of act, your care and analysis of the little things will make you a great asset to your workplace team.

However, over-analysis, and a tendency to suffocate your creativity with too much preparation could lead to poor performance, and you are capable of greater things than to be held back by the pressure you have rested on your shoulders.

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Tallulah Goldsmith

Psychology student writing about behavioural sciences, business psychology and child development


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