Confidence is something that almost everyone struggles with at some point in their lives. Insecurity can be caused by a variety of experiences and impact everything from job performance to home life. One rough experience at work can create waves that ripple throughout our lives.
As a business leader or people manager, you might find it a real challenge to help employees overcome insecurity. How do you know the right questions to ask? How can you motivate someone who seems fearful and tuned out? What can you do to help them navigate these tumultuous times?
While it may feel daunting to try to help employees who seem disengaged because they are feeling insecure, it’s important to know how to handle and manage them to achieve your company’s goals and support the employees on their career path. Here are a few tried-and-true things you can do to help inspire and motivate employees who feel insecure.
1. Understand how to identify an insecure employee.
Insecure employees can be some of the most challenging to manage. They might seem to be disengaged, difficult to connect with, and overly fearful of making a mistake or speaking up, with their job performance often suffering as a result. They might also be short on patience and appear either depressed or falsely upbeat.
Since everyone handles insecurity in different ways, the first step in identifying an insecure employee is to observe and look for some common telltale signs. While not everyone is comfortable speaking up in a large group or openly giving their opinions, if someone who once spoke up regularly is now taking a back seat or merely agreeing with everything that everyone else suggests, they could be feeling insecure. If an employee who usually volunteered for many projects is suddenly hanging back and opting out of things, they could be having a crisis of confidence. [Read related article: How to Monitor and Support Employee Mental Health]
Look for changes in behavior that are out of the ordinary for that particular employee. You might notice that a certain person’s performance has fallen off or that they seem more withdrawn than before. While many things could cause this, it’s essential to pay close attention to any behavior changes that could indicate an employee is feeling less than confident.
You should also check in with yourself. Since we perceive our own world through our individual experiences and lenses, it’s vital to ensure that we’re not projecting some of our personal issues onto our employees. Ask yourself if you’re assigning meaning to what could also just be a personality trait. Your employee could be shy or risk-averse. They could also just be having an off day or week. Just because you think someone is behaving in a way that shows insecurity doesn’t necessarily mean they are insecure.
If an employee’s behavior has changed or you are concerned that they are feeling insecure, it’s best to ask yourself whether the behavior is impacting the team. You should also identify the specific instances when you notice the insecure behavior arising or affecting other people on your team. Is the change in behavior hurting morale or the employee’s career in any way? If so, it may be time to step in and address it.
2. Approach, and be honest.
It isn’t your job to psychologically assess your employees, but when behavior in the workplace starts to impact business outcomes, it’s best to approach your employee with honesty about your observations.
When you do approach your employee, be clear and concise, and do not accuse them. In situations like this, it pays to be inquisitive, asking questions about what might be going on for them. Relationships with insecure employees can be fraught, because the employees may fear that you will fire them or restrict their responsibilities. To address an insecure employee, you need to be patient, open and honest. Address the behaviors you have seen that are disruptive to the team or hurting their performance – but again, do your best not to accuse. Insecure people tend to get defensive when they feel trapped or accused, and that doesn’t serve to address the behaviors you want to change.
You should also be specific and transparent in your feedback so that an employee who feels a lack of confidence can take actions to address that feedback. Remember that feedback doesn’t have to be negative; it should be positive and specific too. Telling your direct report how well they did in a presentation is great, but saying that you really liked how they “turned data into visuals” can have a more significant impact, because it’s explicit and clear. While it’s not your responsibility to manage an employee’s mental health, you should approach your role as a business leader or manager the way a coach approaches their role in a team: Point out employees’ strengths and help them build confidence.
3. Develop rapport and trust.
To help an employee build confidence, you need to bring a positive attitude and a growth mindset. In many work settings, bad managers rule with fear and enforce their authority by tearing others down. That kind of management and environment is not conducive to employee confidence. Show that you are interested in your reports’ lives outside of the office by asking about their hobbies or interests. Once you have developed a foundation of trust, you can build on that and start to help the team – particularly your insecure employee – build a growth mindset.
A growth mindset allows for risk-taking by encouraging individual growth rather than pitting employees against one another. It encourages creative thinking and collaboration by refocusing attention on individual growth rather than on how employees are perceived by others.
4. Develop mentorship teams and learning opportunities.
When you are trying to inspire confidence, it helps to pair people up to work in teams and achieve the goals you have for your business. This can help employees take more risks and feel more confident taking those risks in the company of someone with complementary skills. In fact, this tactic can help your employees develop new skills that they may not have known they had, which helps them build confidence.
You could also ask your insecure employee to help a subordinate with a project because they excelled at a similar thing. This shows that you trust your insecure employee to continue to do a great job.
5. Work on your own managerial style.
Insecurity doesn’t happen in a bubble. Often, a lack of confidence comes from a bad past experience. It can also be a telltale sign of a bad boss and lousy management. That’s why I am a big advocate of doing the hard work on yourself to ensure you create an environment that is collaborative, open, honest and supportive. Bad bosses are everywhere, unfortunately, and one of their shared traits is a refusal to take ownership for their own shortcomings.
I’ve written extensively about how to create a culture of empowered employees and hone your leadership skills to become a better boss, but one key factor we all need to work on is the need to continuously improve. Becoming a great leader is neither linear nor always progressive; sometimes we need to go back and relearn skills we thought we had nailed down. Sometimes the world changes and requires us to change the way we manage as well. As more research comes out on how to effectively manage employees, we must adapt to the times. Otherwise, we risk becoming those nightmare bosses we all read about.
When you have an insecure employee, it pays to take a step back and look at how your own behavior or the culture you’ve instilled has contributed to what’s going on with your employee. These issues never just happen on a one-way street. As they say, there are always three sides to the story, and it pays to look at how we, as leaders, contribute our share to that story. If we can’t take a critical look at how our own managerial styles have contributed to the behaviors we see in our employees, we are not seeing the forest for the trees. It pays to examine where your leadership skills might need some work too. It’s human to make mistakes, but it takes real strength to admit where you may have gone wrong and work on those issues.
If you’re willing to support an insecure employee as they work through their hangups, you should be willing to work on yourself too. Following these tips on how to inspire confidence in your employees will help you not only build a stronger team, but also hbecome a better, more capable leader and ensure your own success well into the future.
Read more: business.com