Anxiety at Work: The Superpowers and the Kryptonite


Published 15th May 23

By Mark Norton, Senior Operations Manager, Ploughshare

When I started at Ploughshare in June 2022, I was at the most anxious I have ever been. When I say anxious, I don’t mean “a bit nervy”; I don’t mean trepidatious. I mean Anxious: capital A, medical diagnosis, and the 150mg per diem of little white pills. My anxiety wasn’t related to starting a new job, but that factor certainly didn’t help.

I am sure there are many jobs I am not dispositionally suited to. One thinks of a professional Texas Holdem poker player. I suspect midwifery might prove problematic, and I wouldn’t wish me on anyone as a tandem skydiving instructor. However, I am excellent at working in operations; not despite my anxiety, but because of it. If you want someone to consider risk and mitigation: hello! If you are after someone to put together the rules of working safely with data: bingo! I am great in an emergency, and when people reflect on how calm I am, guess what! It’s because I have already been through this in my head a hundred times, so I know what to do.

I do suffer from anxiety, and I do suffer with my anxiety. Believe me, it’s not all capes and looking cool. Have you ever had something playing on your mind and you find it hard to concentrate and you are really tired because your mind is working overtime? Welcome to my world. Come on in visitor! I live here every day and I know my way around. Here’s what I learnt: I may need more time to process, I might be less able to maintain long days, don’t swamp me with too much at once and if you want the best from me, please never catastrophise!

There are many reasons why diversity is important. One is because it gives a team a perspective far wider and richer than any one member. Ploughshare recognise this and when a brand-new starter gritted his teeth and confessed that he was in a bad place, even though that anxious person was anxiously expecting to be politely nodded at and then expecting not to make probation for undisclosed reasons, Ploughshare did not let him down. They were aware of the value of the person that they had employed with all his anxiety superpowers and kryptonite and I am happy to say neither party ended up regretting it.