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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter

Working with your worrier

Everyone worries about something from time to time. Will I make it to my metro stop on time to catch the next train? Did I remember to start the crock-pot for tonight's dinner before I left the house? Was that how I meant to say that to my child or was it too harsh? These are examples of ordinary worries that we all have but they aren't usually crippling, show-stoppers on our way to the top of our career pyramid.

Fear of failure that leads to indecision, too risk adverse, over analyzing every detail of every possible outcome, failure to speak up and advocate your opinion are all hallmarks of the Worrier Risk Factor Nancy Parsons identifies in her book Women are Creating the Glass Ceiling and Have the Power to End It. This type of paralyzing worrying in your professional spaces could potentially derail your assent up the corporate ladder unlike the everyday worries discussed above. If left unidentified and unmitigated, the Worrier Risk Factor could hold your career Warrior back especially if you are female. I presented some of Parsons's research last week, in my Previous Post, regarding what a risk factor is and how it can affect you. This week, I want us to dive right into the THREE STEPS (pg. 130) to mitigate and take ownership of your worrier tendencies so you can be the most successful you possible. (There are ten other risk factors identified in the book but we'll be focusing on the Worrier Risk Factor here.)

Mitigation and Ownership

You will never rid yourself completely of your risk factors. "Risk factors are ingrained, natural responses to stimuli that develop from infancy on up. They are part of who we are by the time we are adults" (pgs. xxi - xxii). Thankfully they aren't physical traits! Changing a response to stimuli is much less painful than reshaping your facial structure via plastic surgery, implants, and other methods (at least I would assume seeing as I've never tried the latter).

Key in on the word "responses" in the quote above. When you sense an itch on your face, your automatic response is to reach up and scratch at it right? Have you ever seen, or seen video, of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Seminary? Or the gate guards at Buckingham Palace? Certainly they have the occasional itch while on shift yet they resist the seemingly irresistible ingrained response to scratch it. They have owned their bodily response to stimuli and mitigated their response through training! That is what the three steps below will do for you with your Worrier Risk Factor behavioral response. They are your training guide.

Step One: Know what your risk factors are

Self-awareness is critical. You can receive all the feedback in the world, both positive and negative, from superiors and peers alike but it makes no difference if you do not realize what they are trying to tell you. If your most recent review/evaluation has any of the following (pg. 52), your reviewers are trying to tell you you're a worrier.

  • Needs to work at resolving problems faster

  • Asks for too much information on all subjects

  • Not seen as change oriented

  • Inconsistent confidence level appears to others to be less than secure

Now own it! You're not alone. If you've been reading Parsons's book along with me then you've seen the statistics. Ignoring this part of yourself, pretending it doesn't exist because it makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel like others will think of you ask weak, would be worse than acknowledging it. You'd be stuck permanently both in your career and self development.

You'll need to identify the strengths you possess to help balance that potential derailer. Ask yourself some of the critical questions below (pg. 112) to peel back the layers and discover your strengths. These might not be easy for you to face with all of the social expectations you've blanketed yourself in and have been busy pursuing. You are asking yourself to be both judge and jury of your character and to give honest feedback. Take a second to get in an honest, open frame of mind and allow you to truly answer YOU - not mom/dad/grandparent, 3rd grade teacher, favorite celebrity, or famous rich CEO. Now ask:

  • Do I want to lead? Or do I want to be in a professional, team-oriented, or individual contributor role?

  • How comfortable am I with making decisions?

  • How assertive am I?

  • Does delegating make me uncomfortable?

  • What do I shine at? What makes me stand out?

These are a starting point to identifying your character strengths. They will give you some initial insight. For more, I highly recommend taking one of the CDR assessments and following through with the follow up coaching sessions to get the core of your unique onion in a guided way.

Step Two: What (and who) triggers your risk factor related behavior

Time to analyze those risk factor behaviors now that they have been identified. "Additionally, you may want to consider times when you didn't go with your risk response and were successful. What was different?" (pg. 127) Knowing when, what, and who gets you to your negative risk factor response, and being aware of times that you have succeeded in not responding in a derailing way, will be key to tailoring your mitigation plan in step three. Work through the questions below, and the others on page 127 of the book, to see your behavior patterns.

  • Think about when the risk behavior showed up the last few times. List several examples.

  • How did the risk show up? Describe it fully.

  • What was the impact or harm caused by the risk to you, your team, your leader, relationships, and/or the business?

Step Three: Brainstorm how to prevent or manage

This step is where you tailor your plan for working with your inner worrier. Changing your response behavior will require committed self-discipline to implement awareness measures you identify during your brainstorming. Parsons makes some excellent initial suggestions of preventative measures you could implement, below from page 130, that should get you thinking in the right direction to mitigating your Worrier Risk Factor response. They are just a starting point and may not suite your situation. This plan will have to be custom made just for you in order for it to work so take the suggestions below as a means to get the gears turning and go from there.

  • Ask a colleague "Am I overworking this issue" to help you cut to the chase

  • Set a time limit on your analyzing process. Only allow 10 - 15 minutes per issue then move on.

  • Aim for 70% perfection/readiness, then make the call to continue or let it go.

Reflect on those times you noted in step two where you were in a position to act in a negative way because of your worrier derailer but you did not. What was different? What made you able to control your reaction then? How can you recreate the conditions of that success in the future? The answers to these questions are where your custom plan begins. If you were able to avoid a negative response to what would typically trigger your inner worrier, thoroughly examine that occurrence. Dissect every event that led up to that moment and see how you can build it into a plan like the suggested measures above.

Soldier on

You've got this! I don't think any of the guards at Arlington or Buckingham Palace were confident that they would be able to resist the urge to itch, sit down, chat with passerby, or do any of the other ingrained responses to stimuli that you and I do when they first took up their post. It took training, self-discipline, and commitment of them to learn how to control those responses. You can do it too. Keep using the steps above, refine your plan after every occurrence, and you can rise above the potential derailing consequences of the Worrier Risk Factor.


I truly love feedback on my posts. Please reach out in the comments below, via email, or on any of my socials to let me know what you think. The next book we'll be diving into is iGen: Why today's super connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy - and completely unprepared for adulthood by Jean M. Twenge, PhD. I'm really excited about it and I can't wait to share it with you.

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