I always have these mini panic attacks prior to performance reviews when I know I did not do a good job.

It's something that comes from my school days from when I used to wait for my term grades and I still don't know how to get a handle on it.

I have an upcoming performance review this week and I keep having these random small panic attacks about it. I keep fearing that maybe I'll get laid off, get a demotion or other bad things.

I don't want to share my frustration with my manager, fearing this might put me in a weaker position than I'm in already.

But the wait is making me incredibly distracted from my work and my personal life. What can I do to solve my problem other than seeking professional help?

  • because its something that I know I need but cannot afford/ find at the moment. I live in an area where I do not know how to speak the language fluently (i get by on a daily basis, but definitely not up to the level of having a psychological conversation). and finding help in English is costly and hard to find.
    – anxiousPI
    Feb 24 '20 at 12:03
  • I live in Germany, I have already tried to ''relax'' and the ''íf you can't do anything about it then why worry ?'' but it doesn't really work. for me personally, knowing that I will be fired feels tons better than not knowing if I am or not.
    – anxiousPI
    Feb 24 '20 at 12:20
  • It does, but psychotherapeutic help in English is not really something that the state is responsible for.
    – anxiousPI
    Feb 24 '20 at 13:10

Note that there is nothing you can do now.

So firstly, I think it's worth saying that you are by far not alone in this. Performance reviews to many people can feel like a "make-or-break" situation, and can feel like a massive "unknown" that could either push your career forward or hold it back.

However, the reality is that your performance review is simply a meeting to reflect on the work that has already been done. That means whatever you achieved, or failed to achieve, has already been set in stone across the previous period of work - the review is now relatively out of your hands.

That can sound scary, but it's also the reason not to be scared. There is very little you can do to change the outcome at this point - so there is also nothing (rational) to get anxious about (see note). It's no different than burning dinner; once you've done it, you can relax and move on - the action is already done and overthinking it won't find you any solutions; so you just go and find something else to eat.

Ask for more regular feedback

On the note of performance reviews feeling like a massive unknown "make-or-break" scenario. You can't solve it for this review, but for future you can take steps to avoid being in the same situation again.

Rather than waiting for the end of year to have the review with your manager - schedule regular feedback sessions where you can ask them how you are getting along. You should focus on objective feedback; are you working on the right thing, are the stakeholders happy with your output, is there anything more your manager feels you should be doing?

By asking regularly, you will know the outcome of any performance review well in advance of it happening. Importantly, it will also give you the time to rectify anything that needs improved before it gets finalized into a review.

Once you kill that "unknown" factor, there is a lot less to stress about - and it becomes clear that the review itself is simply an exercise in writing paperwork.

Remind yourself that your value is not your job, you get paid for working - that's as far as that relationship goes

Finally, I would remind you that your job is not your value as a human.

It can be easy to get into a trap of associating all "good things" as being reliant on keeping your job. Yes you have bills, yes you need food, but no, this employer is not the only place that values your skills.

The relationship between you and the employer is a simple "money for business value" equation. If you are not providing the value that business needs, and it gets rid of you, that does not mean you have failed or will fail to find another job. You have skills, worth money, and if they happen not to fit into this business' expectations - you are free to find a place where they are a better fit (and you will manage to do this).

Similarly, you are free to leave at any time. Do not tie your identity or feeling of "purpose" to keeping this particular job. There are plenty of people who will pay for your skills; feel confident that you can move at any time you please - and you are not nearly as dependent on "doing well" at this job as you think you are.

(note:) I do sincerely appreciate that anxiety does not work in a rational way. For those of us that suffer from such feelings - the best you can often hope for is to feel less anxious, it is perfectly normal that the feeling will not magically disappear, no matter the facts you know.

  • exactly there is nothing you can do now. Look back when you had those panic attacks in school, what was the result nothing, right . Now you passed school and work in MNC you will do good.
    – ETL_Devs
    Feb 26 '20 at 5:55

There's a technique known as grounding which might help you in this situation. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and focus yourself on your 5 senses.

  1. Something you can see. In the room or out of the window.
  2. Something you can hear. The traffic outside, a bird singing.
  3. Something you can touch. The chair you're in, your hair, your clothes.
  4. Something you can smell. Hopefully nothing awful.
  5. Something you can taste. It might be a good idea to keep a small piece of food nearby for this one.

While you're doing this, breath as deeply and slowly as you can but don't pay as much attention to it as you are your 5 senses and grounding yourself.

As for the performance review itself, get yourself a notepad and start writing everything you can think of down. What went well? What didn't? What would you do differently this time so what didn't go well doesn't happen again?

Try to think about what questions your manager is going to have for you in the review and come up with ready made answers.

If you're prepared for it, there's less to worry about and less to feel anxious about.

  • Just for future googling/further research - there are a lot of resources about this technique under "mindfulness" (the idea of simply existing, being mindful of how you are feeling, and pulling yourself out of your own head).
    – user81330
    Feb 24 '20 at 12:04

What can I do to solve my problem other than seeking professional help?

Not a lot, keep busy, find interesting things to do outside work, but realistically we all deal with this when we know we may be taken to task over something we did wrong or badly.

The best thing is to put it into perspective in terms of how important it really is to you. Whats the worst that can happen? Fired? Well, better than being shot right.

  • Yes being fired is definitely better than being fired!
    – PagMax
    Feb 24 '20 at 13:08

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