Managing Insecure Employees: 5 Hacks to Boost Their Confidence


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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Taking steps to support insecure employees and increase their confidence shows your dedication to your workforce and contributes to the company's productivity.

Article 7 Minutes
Managing Insecure Employees: 5 Hacks to Boost Their Confidence

Recognizing the impact of workplace stress

The modern workplace moves at a relentless pace. Juggling many projects with tight deadlines while serving customer needs is mentally and emotionally draining. Employees often find themselves pulled in countless directions just trying to keep their heads above water. With little time to catch their breath, it's easy to start doubting one's abilities. Constantly putting out fires leaves workers feeling like they're never truly in control of their schedule and responsibilities.

The stress of keeping up with workplace dynamics like ongoing technological innovations, restructuring, layoffs, and competitive markets adds further strain. Remote and hybrid work arrangements during the pandemic have also blurred the lines between professional and personal responsibilities for many. All of these factors together can influence mental well-being.

It’s not that hard to build people up, but it’s also not that hard to break them down. And that is why, especially as leaders, we need to be quite thoughtful about our interactions with people because we can make a big difference in both directions ~ Melanie Pump

Supporting employees' confidence and performance

As leaders, it is important to be aware of how the stress and pressures of contemporary work life may be impacting your team members' confidence and ability to perform at their best. Feelings of insecurity, if left unaddressed, can slowly chip away at motivation, productivity and engagement over the long run. They may cause some employees to struggle in their roles or doubt their job security. Providing regular positive feedback can help boost employee confidence and reduce feelings of insecurity.

However, leaders must find effective ways to reassure insecure team members, reduce unnecessary anxiety and help build their self-assurance. Regular check-ins, constructive feedback, recognition of contributions and opportunities for development can help boost morale. It is the manager's role to create a supportive environment where people feel empowered rather than intimidated.

Taking action to resolve insecurity issues

If issues of insecurity, lack of confidence or mental health concerns related to workplace stress have become apparent within your organization, considering dedicated actions to resolve these problems will benefit both individual employees and overall company success. The right approach can get productivity and positivity back on track.

5 hacks for leading with empathy and care

1. Don't make snap judgments

Firstly, it's important to ensure that you're not rushing into labeling an employee as insecure on the basis of your own opinions or speculation. Is it possible that what you or other managers might view as signs of insecurity are just aspects of someone's personality, and these characteristics have no negative impact on the individual's ability to do their job?

Mary Shapiro, a professor at Simmons College School of Management, told Harvard Business Review

that it's important for managers to be careful in their interpretations. She pointed out that a risk-averse nature or certain cultural or social differences could be misconstrued as insecurity.

"You need to understand what you're trying to solve before you go in with solutions." - Ethan Burris, associate professor at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin.

2. Listen to concerns

One issue that can fuel insecurity and make people feel unsupported at work is when managers don't listen to their staff, or employees get the impression that their concerns are going unheeded.

Workers who don’t feel listened to or are unable to discuss their worries and ask questions, could end up lacking confidence and feeling disengaged from their work. Their performance and productivity are likely to suffer as a result.

If you're concerned about insecurity becoming a problem in your workforce, consider steps you can take to show employees you're listening to them and that their opinions matter. For example, you could conduct regular pulse surveys or arrange in-person feedback sessions and staff forums.

Addressing insecurities necessitates creating a culture of psychological safety where employees feel comfortable expressing their worries.

3. Consider mentoring

When someone is feeling insecure and uncertain in their role, they could gain a lot from working closely with an experienced, trusted member of staff who can empathize with their situation and offer advice.

Assigning a mentor to an employee who is finding things difficult can give that person a confidence boost by teaching them new skills and letting them see how other people deal with common challenges in the workplace. It can also prove beneficial to pair an insecure employee with a colleague with complementary skills.

For example, someone adept at conducting research, gathering data and preparing presentations, but not so comfortable speaking to clients, could be paired with a co-worker who enjoys making pitches and taking the lead in sales meetings. This can yield good results for the business and will also help employees learn from each other's strengths.

4. Be clear and specific

Clarity and specificity are important concepts to prioritize if you want to support employees in your organization who are experiencing insecurity.

One of the key things to be clear about is your expectations. People need to know exactly what is expected of them, to limit any anxiety they may have about not doing enough and falling short of key objectives, or being stretched and overworked if their targets are unrealistic.

You can also boost people's confidence by giving them detailed feedback and setting out a structured plan for how they cannot just do their job effectively but develop and improve. For example, establishing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals can provide a clear framework for performance improvement and development.

5. Focus on what people do well

A common cause of insecurity is people feeling that their managers are more interested in tackling underperformance and picking people up on their mistakes than giving praise and positive feedback where it's due.

Making an effort to recognize good performance - which could be as simple as giving a verbal 'thank you' or a 'well done' when someone hits a target or makes a vital contribution - can lead to a big boost in morale and confidence across the workforce.

Cultivating a culture of appreciation and encouragement can significantly enhance employee confidence and motivation. Additionally, promoting a supportive team culture is crucial for enhancing employee confidence. Foster a collaborative environment, encourage open communication, and promote peer support to create a positive and uplifting workplace atmosphere.

Foster confidence and empowerment

In conclusion, successfully managing insecure employees requires a thoughtful, multifaceted approach that addresses both individual needs and broader team dynamics over time. Leaders must avoid making snap judgments and instead actively listen to understand each person's unique concerns and confidence struggles.

Providing dedicated mentoring support through regular check-ins, guidance on development areas and career pathing can help address insecurities at their root. Managers should also promote clarity and specificity around work expectations, feedback, and opportunities to ensure employees feel adequately prepared in their roles.

Recognizing employees' ongoing achievements, valuable contributions and progress - both formally and informally - is crucial for boosting self-assurance as well. Public recognition helps others on the team appreciate each person's skills and value.

By fostering a genuinely supportive culture where people feel empowered to take risks, voice ideas and ask for help without judgment, managers can help insecure employees gradually regain perspective and believe in their abilities. Team-building activities, flexibility and understanding humanize the workplace.

Prioritizing the well-being, job satisfaction and self-confidence of every employee, with patience and compassion, not only enhances individual growth in both career and character, but also indirectly contributes to the overall success, innovation, customer service and retention goals of the organization as a whole.

Additional resources

Join Tim Reitsma, Author at People Managing People, in an episode with Melanie Pump, CFO of Brane Inc. and author of DETOX: Managing Insecurity In The Workplace. How To Manage Insecurities In The Workplace (with Melanie Pump) - People Managing People

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