Workplace Phrases That Spark Anxiety – and How to Manage Them

New research based on heart rates reveal that workplace stress can be induced merely by a manager uttering a phrase, indicating that choosing words carefully is vital to combat mental health challenges at work.

TheKnowledgeAcademy.com’s heart rate study reveals the workplace phrase that raises our heart rate most is: “Let’s have a chat”.  On average, the phrase “Let’s have a chat” raised respondents heart rate beats per minute to 147 BPMan 84% increase to the average resting heart rate beats per minute (80 BPM).

In second and third place are the phrases “Would you be able to do a presentation for us?” and “Can you share your findings in today’s meeting?” raising heart rates to an average 143 BPM and 138 BPM, respectively.

Here’s how common workplaces phrases affected the heart rate of participants:

Workplace Phrase Average Recorded Heart Rate BPM Average Heart Rate (80 BPM) Increase
1 Let’s have a chat 147 84%
2 Would you be able to do a presentation for us? 143 79%
3 Can you share your findings in today’s meeting? 138 73%
4 Just make it happen 131 64%
5 Have you seen that urgent email? 130 63%
6 It’s come to my attention… 127 59%
7 Have you done X yet? 123 54%
8 How do you think it’s going? 118 48%
9 Can you elaborate on that? 111 39%
10 Please advise 105 31%
11 Would you mind covering that ex-employee’s role for a while? 103 29%
12 What are the learnings here? 101 26%
13 I tried to call/zoom you earlier… 99 24%
14 I accidentally deleted it 96 20%
15 Can I talk to you about what you’re wearing? 93 16%
16 Do you have anything you want to discuss? 91 14%

“Do you have anything you want to discuss?” Raises Workers’ Heart Rate Least

TheKnowledgeAcademy.com’s heart rate study reveals the workplace phrase that raises our heart rate least is: “Do you have anything you want to discuss?”. On average, this phrase raised respondent heart rate beats per minute to 91 BPMa 14% increase on the average resting heart rate beats per minute (80 BPM).

Other phrases with less impact on heart rate include “Can I talk to you about what you’re wearing?” and “I accidentally deleted it” raising heart rate to an average 93 BPM and 96 BPM, respectively.

Talveer Sandhu, a spokesperson for TheKnowledgeAcademy.com, comments:

From project timelines, to delegating the right work to the right staff, and all the in-between, there’s much about work that can alter our heart rate. At a granular level, the study we conducted found even the words or phrases, commonplace in a work environment, can make a big difference to how somebody feels. Going forward, this might encourage us all to reconsider how we speak to staff and colleagues.

TheKnowledgeAcademy.com’s Talveer Sandhu spoke with Ian Hurst, co-founder of mental health and suicide prevention non-profit, We are Hummingbird, to discuss tips on how to keep calm at work when you can feel your heart rate accelerating.

Hurst notes:

Dealing with difficult people is often the biggest cause of work-related stress. With the additional pressure of today’s pandemic, even a request for a chat can become a stressor. I recommend the following 4 steps, which can help you to assess the situation and alleviate some pressure before you move forward”:

  1. Talk about your feelings to a friend or colleague you trust – getting things off your chest can help relieve pressure.
  1. Use grounding techniques – such as breathing exercises. The 5 senses grounding technique is particularly effective. Look around and identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  1. Repeat a calming mantra – a mantra can be a mission statement or vision to repeat that is personal to you for example mine is “breaking the stigma with music”, this can help to ground you and make you feel more in control.
  1. Write down your worry – this will help you to assess what your concern is and accept it is not something you can control.

 

*Methodology

To achieve the data, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com asked 807 members of their staff to take part in a trial:

Participating staff were asked to wear a heart rate tracker while working every day for six weeks. During the six-week trial, senior staff were told to say 16 common workplace phrases at random, such as “let’s have a chat”. All 807 staff were not told the nature of the experiment but were told they would be asked to jot down their heart rate beats per minute (BPM) at random times (actually it was after phrases like “let’s have a chat” were said).

Please note: A resting heart rate is measured by counting the number of beats per minute (BPM). A “normal” heart rate ranges between 60-100 BPM – this is an average of 80 BPM.

 

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