November 1, 2023

How to Reduce Anxiety When Initiating Professional Development Conversations

It is common to experience work-related anxiety when there is so much pressure to perform at a high level while managing the responsibilities and dynamics that exist in professional contexts. While we may already experience stress related to the nature of our jobs, the sources of anxiety at work can be attributed to factors like job security, fear of failure, social hierarchies or environment, and vary across professions.

Anxiety also often spikes when it is time to bring up professional development conversations. This can look like asking for a raise or resigning from your current position. Thankfully, there are ways to feel less anxious when approaching these challenging but necessary exchanges. Here are some places to start:

Evaluate Your Reasons

Reflect on your reasons for having this conversation. How would it support your values and goals on a professional and personal level? Understanding your motivations can help you feel more confident in your choice and express yourself clearly at the time of the discussion.

Prepare Thoroughly & Rehearse

Is there any valuable information you could gather, such as details about the industry standards and the salary structure within your organization to support your points? Who are the right people to approach with your request?  Make sure to do your research ahead of time, document important points, and consult with trusted colleagues and mentors prior to the conversation. Practicing ahead of time can also significantly lower your anxiety around the flow of the conversation and its possible outcome. Write a script and practice it with a trusted friend or family member who can offer you feedback and encouragement.

Choose the Right Time

Make sure to request a private and scheduled meeting with your supervisor or HR professional. This way, you will ensure it receives the attention it deserves. If the conversation is related to a career advancement request or additional opportunities, choosing a time when your performance has been strong may also help.

Be Flexible and Open to Discussion

Approach the subject with flexibility and be prepared for negotiation. Understand that your employer may not be able to meet your initial request, so be open to hearing about other beneficial options or future considerations. Thinking of a backup plan can also lower the pressure and expectations related to the conversation at hand.

Focus on Positive Self-talk

Challenge and reframe negative thoughts by replacing them with positive affirmations or statements. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your achievements and strengths as an employee. Remind yourself that you are worthy of having your needs met in order to maintain personal and professional fulfillment, and communicate from a place of self-compassion and confidence.

Stay Calm

Practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques before the meeting to manage anxiety. Meditation, breathwork, writing a gratitude list, journaling, or a quick walk on a lunch break will allow you to feel more grounded and balanced.

Seek Professional Support

Consider speaking with a mental health professional as a highly effective way to manage work-related anxiety, especially when you feel nervous about navigating difficult conversations with your employer. A collaborative therapeutic process will provide you with guidance, support, and strategies for building confidence and effective communication. 

Whatever the professional development conversation you are approaching, you got this!

Written by Natallia Khalpukova, MHC Fellow



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