Confidence Crisis? We're Here to Help
Have You Noticed the ‘Confidence Crisis’?
Red Dot Research recently undertook to gage just how confident British employees are. The results? ‘Crisis of Confidence’, cried headlines. Asked about a range of everyday and not-so-everyday tasks, from public speaking to working in a team, a surprising amount of participants revealed worryingly low confidence levels.
What was most concerning about the results was the revelations about the relationships between participants and their superiors or their colleagues. 35% of respondents lack the confidence to ask for a pay rise, while 25% feel uncomfortable requesting time off – even when they are owed holiday. Even worse, 27% - that’s nearly one in three -- feel anxious about working with their superiors on a daily basis.
Why the anxiety? Have British offices been overwhelmed with an influx of draconian managers? The research suggests not; 19% also feel a lack of confidence working in a team, implying that their fears are not limited to only dealing with a severe boss. Rather, the confidence-deficit seems to revolve around how people handle workplace relationships.
Is this really news? We already knew that difficult conversations at work were, for most people, something best avoided. Earlier this year, CMI research found that the ten most difficult conversations that most of us will ever have are work-related. The really tricky part is dealing with them before ‘conversation’ becomes ‘conflict’.
But this survey showed that confidence was lacking even in ordinary situations. This appeared to lead to more submissive behaviour: being afraid to put their own ideas forward, and feeling like a pushover, also featured in the top ten most common anxieties. Survey reports went on to speculate as to how this low-confidence was affecting the respondents’ careers. For instance, one in five (20%) felt they have failed to win a new job because of their lack of their self-belief.
What 5th Wall wants to know is: why do we assume that the submissive behaviour (which often causes us to miss out on opportunities) is a consequence of low confidence? Let’s try reframing the issue: what if low confidence was a symptom of submissive behaviour?
It’s true that low confidence feels like something that we experience internally. But when over a quarter (26%) of respondents claimed that those with higher confidence were better performers at work, they had nothing to go on but seemingly confident behaviour. Dig a little deeper, and it soon becomes apparent that even the most self-assured among us are acting.
This is no bad thing; we simply have to remember that confidence is a result of certain behaviours, not an inconquerable internal feeling. Focusing on practising assertiveness, rather than submissive behaviour, is the first step to building the confidence that will help you perform in the workplace. And by ‘perform’, we don’t just mean achieve your goals; we mean perform the confidence that will help you to get there.
Here are our starter tips for boosting workplace confidence:
- Smile. Not only will it help you to persuade yourself that things are going OK; it will help persuade others of how relaxed and in control you are. This will be especially helpful if those around you are feeling shaky. Many people are at their most intimidating when they are stressed themselves; by thawing an icy situation with a friendly smile and warm manner you’ll make your colleagues much easier to handle.
- Make Eye Contact. This is an easy way to fake confidence even if you’ve got butterflies. It also makes a surprising difference to the levels of trust and rapport you have with your colleague or client.
- Listen. Being confident doesn’t mean talking about yourself all the time; if anything, this will make it seem like you need approval – a decidedly non-confident trait. Showing your support for others is a more productive way to display self-assurance. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to think about what you find impressive in their behaviour, so that you can mimick their confidence yourself.
- Be Prepared. If there is a particular situation you are worried about, preparation will do huge favours for your confidence. When asking for a payrise, for example, be prepared with responses to potential scenarios. What will you say if your boss offers you a different figure that’s lower than your aim? What will you do if he or she throws the stapler at you and screams at you to leave? This doesn’t just allow you to prepare for every situation – it can be a useful reality check in reminding you why there’s nothing to worry about in the first place.
What are your confidence boosting tips?