Managing Insecure Employees: 5 Hacks to Boost Their Confidence


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Thursday, January 21, 2021

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

Article 4 Minutes
Managing Insecure Employees: 5 Hacks to Boost Their Confidence

Businesses all over the world are facing a range of challenges in 2020, many of which are rooted in the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences for individuals, public services, private enterprises and economies.

Aside from posing a clear physical health risk, the pandemic has also had an undeniable impact on people's mental wellbeing.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues in the US, showed that more than half (53%) of adults felt their mental health had suffered because of worry and stress about COVID-19. In a similar study in the UK, 69% of people reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect the crisis was having on their life.

Looking after workforce wellbeing should be a priority for employers at all times, not just in extraordinary circumstances like the pandemic.

The stress and pressure that employees often experience at work can lead to broader mental health challenges that affect people's confidence and ability to do their jobs.

If feelings of insecurity, anxiety or lack of confidence have become an issue in your workforce, you might need to consider what dedicated action you should take to resolve these problems. Here are some measures to consider:

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.

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 might 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 can not just do their job effectively, but develop and improve.

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 reinforcement 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.

For employees who are feeling insecure, support, gratitude and encouragement from their manager could be exactly what they need to drive positive change in their outlook.

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