Important jobs, big bonuses and beating your colleagues: City workers are suffering from “status anxiety” but won't talk about it

Sarah Spickernell
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City workers feel pressure to look successful in front of their peers (Source: Getty)
People working in the City are suffering from increasing levels of anxiety because of a pressure to appear successful and mentally resilient, according to a psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre.
Dr Rafael Euba has treated people with work-related anxiety and depression from a wide range of professions, including many people who work in the City.
In an interview with City A.M., he said that he has noticed a particular type of anxiety, called “status anxiety”, which is more prevalent in the finance sector than any other field.
“There is enormous pressure today for people in the City to be successful and to be able to demonstrate this publicly to their peers,” he said. “Yet there is a strong stigma associated with having psychological difficulties at work.
According to a finance sector job satisfaction report released by Financial News in August, almost a third of financial executives have suffered from stress or depression at work, but most have kept it hidden because they felt unable to tell their employer.
“This applies to many types of job, but even more so in the City because there is such a competitive culture – people fear that their psychological distress could be interpreted as weakness, in a sector where you are expected to be strong,” explained Euba.
He added that the word “macho” illustrates the way in which many City workers wish to be perceived by their colleagues, and that serious stress can result if things don't go according to plan.
“Status anxiety is distress caused by pressure to achieve and have a high status. It is particularly bad when you have difficulty achieving that status and perceive that those around you are doing better than you.
“It is more prevalent in the City than in other sectors because people feel the need to show off their status to others, and the differences in income between the highest and lowest paid jobs are especially large.”
He explained that this higher level of anxiety is exacerbated by the lack of correlation between effort put in and reward received in the finance sector: “It is often less predictable and that makes the anxiety worse, since there is a constant incentive to increase effort but often to no avail.”
The most common signs of status anxiety are change in appetite, inability to sleep, a dread of work when you wake up in the morning, and a general inability to enjoy things or find things interesting.
Euba believes that if people in the city are going to get over this, they need to feel more able to express their problems, since although society as a whole has become more accepting of psychological disorders, the City has not caught up.
“The culture of the City needs to change so that those workers who are suffering feel confident that they can seek help and will be supported, rather than labelled as someone who is weak.
“It should be possible to achieve this, since society's view as a whole towards psychological distress is changing considerably. Sooner or later, competitive environments should also become more accepting.”
He added that productivity in the City would improve if more psychological support was provided to its workers: “If you feel your boss is not supportive, it is difficult to feel confident.”

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