Want to Boost Productivity? Confidence is Key.

Does it seem like office tasks are taking a lot longer than they should, but you’ve already addressed your team’s workflows? Confidence (or a lack thereof) may be to blame for sluggish performance.

So often we assume that the good we see in our employees–the reasons we hired them in the first place–are clear and obvious to everyone, including the employees themselves. But that’s not always the case. In fact, there may be bigger (sometimes systemic) issues at play that are causing low confidence among your employees.

Do you have an employee that always copies you on emails to clients, despite the fact that you trust their ability to communicate successfully one-on-one with clients? Or maybe you have an employee who takes 3 times as long as others to complete an assignment because they are constantly double and triple checking their work.

A lack of confidence can stem from many things–some internal and some external–but there are ways that you as a leader can help encourage your employees, boost their self-confidence, and, in turn, increase productivity and improve workplace morale and culture.

In this blog post, we’ll share a few ways that a lack of confidence shows up at work (and how it’s affecting output), how leadership can help address the issue individually and across the board, and resources that we recommend you share when approaching this topic with your staff.

How Confidence Impacts Productivity in the Workplace

The first thing to know if your employees are lacking confidence is that it won’t be easy to spot unless you’re keyed into your personnel and their work habits. In many cases, what may seem like simple thoroughness is actually a lack of confidence that’s adding hours onto your employees’ time sheets and distracting them from bigger, better fish they could be frying.

Here are a few ways your employees’ lack of confidence at work are affecting not only their performance, but ultimately your bottom line as well:

  • When an individual lacks confidence, they often triple-check their work and spend way too much time on projects that could have been done just as well with a single, thorough once-over upon completion.
  • Additionally, a lack of confidence can cause someone to over-correct their work. Much like a student who overthinks their answer on a test, an employee who isn’t confident in their ability to complete a project correctly may overthink their work and end up correcting themselves until the work is, in fact, done wrong.
  • Low confidence may also cause folks not to be bold or adventurous in the workplace. They may withhold new and unique ideas from the conversation at work when they feel their voice isn’t worth hearing. This, in turn, inhibits the ability of businesses to harness those great ideas into company growth and improvement.
  • A lack of confidence can also cause employees to sink into procrastination. If they fear that they may do something incorrectly, they may opt to not do it at all, which in turn can lead to missed deadlines, slower output, and time wasted on menial tasks that ultimately don’t move the bottom line.

These are just a few of the countless ways that low confidence can impact productivity, but later in this article we will share some examples of how leadership can positively impact their employees’ confidence levels and output.

Internal and External Factors That Cause Low Confidence

Confidence is not cut-and-dry. Confidence (and a lack thereof) can stem from an enormous variety of areas, including your employees’ upbringings, life experiences, health diagnoses, gender, and so on.

To understand the implications of low self-confidence, we’ve listed examples in a few of these areas below with resources to help you gain a better understanding of your employees’ situations, and to help your employees address their confidence issues so they can start thriving at work.

  • Imposter Syndrome: Imposter Syndrome is incredibly common, especially among women. If you’ve not heard of it before, Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you either don’t belong–in your role, in your chosen field, etc.–or that the knowledge you possess isn’t enough compared to your peers.

Many women feel as though they are an imposter in their careers. It’s not uncommon that women fear someone is going to realize they don’t deserve to be in the role they are in (no matter how qualified they are). They may refrain from writing a book or starting their dream podcast because “what do I know anyway”. And they feel they shouldn’t ask for that promotion because “there must be someone more qualified.”

The simple act of making your employees aware of Imposter Syndrome, and also helping them to see it in themselves, can be a huge boost to their confidence. Mental health professionals have long used the phrase “name it to tame it” when discussing how one can start to process emotions, past traumas, etc. Putting a name to Imposter Syndrome can help your employees to start recognizing when they are using limiting beliefs to hold themselves back.

For more on this, we highly recommend reading the book Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine, which does a great job of helping people see how they sabotage themselves and their own success.

  • Undiagnosed ADD: Undiagnosed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) can cause a lack of confidence among workers. People with undiagnosed ADD often lack confidence because they are frustrated with their own ability to complete simple tasks at work (and beyond.)

It’s not uncommon for individuals with undiagnosed ADD to assume that they lack the intelligence necessary to complete basic, day-to-day activities at work. As with Imposter Syndrome, simply knowing that one has ADD can be enough to help build someone’s confidence.

When an individual learns that they have ADD, it can help affirm that they don’t lack the intelligence necessary to be successful at work, but perhaps they simply need to work a little differently. An individual with ADD may need to find the right structure, and potentially the right role, in order to tap into their full potential at work. For example, someone that struggles with detailed work might be best suited for a more creative, strategic, or big picture thinking type of role. Additionally, those with ADD typically perform best with structure.

Interested in reading more about ADD or having a resource to share with your employees? Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell is an excellent book to help you recognize Attention Deficit Disorder, and learn how to cope with it.

  • Past Experiences: From the time we are children, our life experiences shape who we are and how we behave in school, with friends, at work, and out in the world. While this may be harder to narrow down than identifying Imposter Syndrome or ADD, you should be aware that life experiences have shaped your employees and their confidence levels (whether for the good or the bad.)

While you may never know what drives your employees to act and feel the way they do, you can pay attention to where they lack confidence at work, and you can make an effort to create an encouraging environment.

A powerful resource for building confidence that you might consider sharing with your team is Jen Sincero’s bestselling book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

How You, As a Leader, Can Help

It’s important for leaders to invest energy in their employees by finding ways to bolster their confidence at work. When leaders demonstrate that they believe in their employees, those employees are more likely to believe in themselves, which leads to less overthinking and more productivity.

  • Praise: One way leaders can help build the confidence of strong performers who are inhibited by their own confidence issues is through praise. When someone lacks confidence, leaders should spend more time praising the areas where the individual is already succeeding, versus simply pointing out how they can improve. Many people require regular positive feedback in an area before they start to believe it themselves.

Additionally, when leaders praise or compliment a team member, the praise should be specific. Avoid saying something simple like “good work”. Instead, say something like “I love the way you do thorough research to ensure everything is accurate.” Specific praise helps the employee feel as though they have mastered a particular aspect of their work.

  • Avoid Micromanaging & Being Hypercritical: Leaders should aim to not be overly critical of their employees’ work. If a member of your team completes a project that is done well, but it’s not exactly the way you might do it, avoid providing unnecessary feedback. When you respond with “This looks great!” rather than a long list of minor suggested changes, you will build your employee’s confidence and show them that you trust their ability to complete projects well without having you intervene.
  • Build Trust: Leaders should ensure that they’re communicating a level of trust with their employees. You can do this by asking your employees to stop copying you on emails to other team members or clients when it’s not necessary. When employees are asked to always copy leadership on communications, they often assume there is a level of trust missing.

Another way you can instill trust in your employees is to hand over the reins for meetings. If you allow your employees to take meetings without you, you’re communicating with them that you trust in their ability to handle it without your help.

  • Listen to Their Logic: If something goes bump in the night, leaders should seek to understand what happened before jumping to conclusions or assuming someone is to blame. When something goes wrong, ask your employee to explain their process and why they made the decisions they did in that specific situation. Oftentimes the employee’s logic will be sound and the issue was caused due to a miscommunication on the part of leadership or another issue. When problems arise, employees are often the first to blame themselves, so taking the time to discover the root of the issue can help clear up misconceptions when they’re present.

In employing these tactics, leadership can hope to see increased confidence, job satisfaction, and productivity among their team members. Staying clued into the attitudes of your employees and their relationship to their work will also help to create a healthier work culture within your organization.

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