Conquer your office Kryptonite in 3 steps

First, identify what's causing your weakness

We all have moments at work when we feel anxious. 

They might be big presentations, difficult conversations with colleagues, or critiquing your manager's idea.

Whatever your office weakness is, it doesn't have to control your life, says Joseph Grenny, a social scientist for business performance and author of four books on business skills. He shared a three-step plan for overcoming your biggest fears at work.

1. Learn your triggers

The first step in addressing your weakness, Grenny says, is to identify what causes it to come out.

"The way to make progress is to identify the nature of the moments that provoke these ineffective responses," he says. "Pay attention to the times, places, social circumstances, moods, physiological states, or risk perceptions that incite you to act in ways that lead to bad results."

For example, if you find yourself checking your inbox and returning calls when you really should be preparing for a major presentation, your procrastination is probably driven by anxiety about the presentation.

When you think of your weakness as something that happens during specific moments, rather than something to watch out for all the time, it will feel less overwhelming. 

Seven ways to manage stress in the moment

2. Practice makes perfect

Grenny recommends looking for opportunities to put yourself in the situations that provoke fear or anxiety. Thinking of it as "practice" can make the situation less intimidating, he writes.

However, Grenny cautions you not to "jump into the deep end" right away. Begin with smaller challenges and work up to larger ones. You can also focus on one specific skill.

For example, Grenny says one of his clients felt very anxious when she needed to disagree with her managers. This person studied communication tactics and found one skill to focus on first: opening each conversation by acknowledging their shared purpose.

After each practice situation, mentally debrief and rate your effectiveness and stress level.

Related: Squelch that voice of self-doubt for good

3. Check your emotions at the door

One of the reasons practice situations can seem difficult, Grenny writes, is because of "the inevitable emotions that accompany confronting a weakness."

When you address your emotions and deliberately attempt to calm down, Grenny says, you can "gradually retrain your brain to change its formula for predicting how you'll feel in your crucial moments."

To address your emotions, Grenny suggests clarifying your motives. Before entering a practice situation, ask yourself, "What do I really want [out of this]?" Focusing on your goals can hone your focus and give you the strength you need to overcome your weakness (Grenny, Harvard Business Review, 1/26).

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