How to Build Workplace Confidence

See also: Stress Management Tips

There is often a strong correlation between self-confidence and occupational success. Maintaining a positive workplace attitude can, in some cases, lead to higher wages and quicker promotions.

However, success in the office can be harder to come by for people who lack confidence. Insecure workers often find themselves passed over in favour of more self-assured colleagues.

Many people believe that self-confidence is an innate ability. However, this simply isn’t true - even the most outwardly confident people feel insecure at times. With practice, anyone can boost their confidence levels and command the workplace.

Confidence and Stress

Confidence is primarily undermined by stress, which professionals define as when the demands on an individual “exceed the personal and social resources that the individual is able to mobilise”.

This means that we tend to feel stressed when faced with:

  • New and unfamiliar tasks.
  • Tasks we have struggled with in the past. 
  • Unexpected disruptions.
  • Critical comments.

These situations often occur in the workplace, and can rapidly chip away at our self-confidence.

Facing the Unfamiliar

A lack of confidence often stems from being unsure of how to do something. As a result, many people feel a rising sense of panic when faced with an unfamiliar task.

Take control of this feeling by asking a manager or co-worker for help. You can still demonstrate your initiative by deciding how you would logically approach the task, before approaching others for help.

Silence is Golden

Asking for help can sometimes feel like a failure. If you’d prefer to try and work through a new challenge yourself, sit back quietly and watch other people first. You can learn a lot just by being observant.
Some people cover their lack of confidence with a loud and exuberant personality. However, don’t let this shake your own sense of self-worth - loudness does not necessarily equal skilfulness.

Picture the Future

When faced with an unfamiliar task, some people instinctively react negatively. When you’re struggling to master a new skill, it’s all too easy to believe you will never succeed.

However, practice makes perfect - envisaging yourself mastering the task in the future can provide you with a confidence boost.

See our page: Building Confidence for more.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

Thought Awareness

The above tips will help you to become more confident when facing new tasks. However, workplace confidence can also be derailed by other situations.

A proven way to build confidence is Thought Awareness - a technique often used during cognitive behavioural therapy.

The process is designed to tackle negative thinking at the root, and unfolds as follows: 

  • For a two-week period, keep a daily ‘stress diary’.
  • Whenever a stressful situation arises, make a note of the details - along with your emotional response and thoughts.
  • These observations must be totally honest - it can take a couple of days to get the hang of it.

Maintain this diary for a minimum of two weeks. Once you’ve completed your observations, take some time to go through the pages and look for patterns of repeated behaviour. People with low confidence tend to have a higher proportion of negative thoughts - often triggered by certain situations.

The key to thought awareness is to identify these negative thoughts and triggers, before using rational thinking to combat them and build confidence.

Rational Thinking

Keep your daily stress diary for another two weeks, noting down each time you feel stressed. However, rather than allowing your thought process to continue unchecked, battle your negativity with rational thinking.

As we saw above, several different situations commonly cause stress in the workplace:

  1. Tasks we have struggled with in the past. 
  2. Unexpected disruptions.
  3. Unexpected criticism.

Rational thinking can be used in these situations as follows:

Tasks we have struggled with in the past.

The fear of repeating previous failures is a powerful force, and can prevent people from realising their true potential. If you find yourself dwelling on past mistakes, remember that you now have the benefit of experience on your side. Firmly remind yourself that one failed enterprise doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily fail in the future.

Unexpected disruptions

Unfortunately, we cannot control external influences. For some people, this lack of control can cause confidence to rapidly crumble away. As an example, workplace sexual harassment can be a very difficult issue to combat. If you fear the unknown, build your confidence back up with through thorough preparation. Decide how you will deal with unexpected issues in advance, and draw up an ‘emergency plan of action’ to fall back on.

Critical comments

Criticism can be difficult to hear - even when delivered in a constructive manner. For some people, a critical comment can completely destroy their self-confidence. If you’re due to have a discussion about your work, arm yourself with a record of your thought processes, and be prepared to talk through your decisions.

Dealing with Criticism

When you receive criticism you have a choice.

  • Use it in a positive way to improve, or:
  • In a negative way that can lower your self-esteem and cause stress and/or anger.
See or page: Dealing with Criticism to learn how take a more positive view of criticism.

Focus on Yourself

Confidence is a flexible quality, and this article discusses some healthy ways to cultivate it. However, some people use unhealthy methods. This can be seen most clearly on social media where some people portray an exaggerated projection of their lives in order to make themselves feel better.

Remember - you will only achieve true self-confidence by focussing entirely on your own self-image and internal dialogue.

About the Author

This post was written by Jade Symons of Westminster Live, an internationally recognised television studio based on the banks of the River Thames.