Will I be successful?

Am I able to help this company improve?

Will my colleagues see me as competent?

Anxiety in a new work role is not only normal, it can offer useful information and help with personal growth. The best way to approach anxiety and stress about a new work role is to untangle the fears and find ways to push past them.

Understanding Your Fears

As you consider your new work role, what are the top fears that keep coming up? Sometimes there are common themes for people changing jobs or starting in a new role in the workplace.

Feeling like a fraud

Are you doubting your own abilities to engage in this new role and worried that co-workers will also judge you as incapable?

Fear of being disliked

Even as adults, we can fall prey to the social angst of workplace popularity.

Anxiety about work atmosphere and logistics

Will you have your own space but be in proximity to colleagues? How do they manage schedules? What are the office routines and expectations?

Second-guessing your decision

The transition to a new job can be daunting, and one of the most nerve-wracking aspects is the big question, “Should I have taken this job?”.

Sabotaging Your Anxiety

Rather than allowing your fear and anxiety to sabotage you, turn the tables and undermine those feelings. One of the factors we forget when we are stressed is that our fears do not always tell us the truth. To sabotage your anxiety about your new work role, try some of these behavioral changes.

Act “as if”

While not exactly like “fake it till you make it,” this is a close cousin. Acting ‘as if’ is a helpful behavioral modification tool that allows you to act as if you are in a different emotional state, even if it doesn’t feel true. In a new work setting, envision yourself entering a group of co-workers who already know your strengths.

Acting ‘as if’ in this way enables you to move beyond the anxiety so that your strengths can emerge. Behaving as if you are already well known and respected by new colleagues can give you the confidence to present your ideas without fear of judgment.

Create a comfortable space

Anxiety will tell you that a new work setting is uncomfortable and that there are too many unknowns. Create an atmosphere that invites the opposite reaction. Arrange your office so that it invites colleagues in to chat and get to know you. This also offers you a relaxed but professional environment to remind you of your strengths when you are feeling like a newbie.

Speak up

Don’t forget, you are new to this role, perhaps even new to the company. This probably means that you have new ideas or innovative solutions that others would like to hear. You were hired to this position because of your value; show it. Ask questions. Let people see your problem-solving skills and ask others what they think. Be a curious learner in your new job. Others will see you as invested, and you will show your work ethic and team commitment.

Let your good humor surface

Allow others to see your sense of humor. Sometimes anxiety brings out nervous humor; let it show a bit. Your ability and willingness to laugh and be yourself will also show your new co-workers what to expect as you continue to build relationships.

Learn the culture of the company

Similar to a family, companies develop their own culture. Norms and values develop over time, as do traditions and internal belief systems and subcultures. Stay open to the varying aspects you observe from your new role. What do people like about the company? What do they dislike? How do people treat each other? How can you merge into the culture of the company and bring your own values to the table to make it even better?

The Do-Nots

When starting in a new work role, there are a few behaviors that are best to avoid. These tips are intended to minimize difficult or awkward interactions that might make your transition more difficult.

Bragging or ragging on the ex

All of us compare prior jobs with our current, it’s part of our transition process. Don’t make the mistake of excessively talking about your former role and glorifying it, nor should you excessively badmouth your former employer. While these behaviors may seem benign, as a first impression it can make you seem unprofessional or egotistical.

Starting out fake

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward at a new job but do your best to stay as genuine to your true self as possible. If you are going into a new role where you know no one, it may feel tempting to try on a new personality; to try to be different than your true self. The intention behind this behavior is often positive, but because it will be too hard to maintain this false-self, it won’t last, nor will it be convincing.

The everything guy

You are competent. You want to make a good impression. It seems only natural that if you are asked to take on tasks that are outside of your job description, that you would gladly take them on to show your work ethic and team approach. Be careful not to become the one everybody goes to for rescue. It seems like a perfect way to earn job security, but in the end, it will become your identity at work and it will enable others to pile on the tasks that they don’t want to deal with. Stay in your lane; be a team player by teaching others to do instead of rescuing.

Make an agreement with yourself prior to taking on a new role in the workplace. This agreement is partly a commitment to yourself and your needs as a worker, and partly a promise to your new employer.

Give yourself a minimum time frame

There will be stress, adaptation and settling-in that need to occur at your new job. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, commit to a minimum of one year before you allow yourself to consider changing jobs again.

Set learning goals for yourself

Consider your new role a learning opportunity. What do you hope to learn in your new job? What skills will you build?

Releasing bad-job mojo

If you are exiting a job that left you feeling burned-out, used or otherwise abused, work on healing from that negative experience so that you don’t bring it into your new workplace. If appropriate, talk to your supervisor about some of the concerns in your prior role and how you need things to be different to impact your job satisfaction.

Most employers are invested in keeping workers at least moderately satisfied with their jobs, as it aids in retention, which ultimately saves the company money and a lot of headaches.

Be gentle with yourself as you begin this new journey and allow yourself some patience to learn all of the varying aspects of your role. It is normal to fear the unknown, but as you settle into the responsibilities of your position in the company, it will slowly become comfortable.


  • Dr. Teyhou Smyth

    Performance Coach, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Keynote Speaker, Licensed Therapist (#115137)

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