Workplace Confidence

Why it’s important, how to combat self-doubt, and how to build confidence in those around you

Tiffany Conroy
Dec 28, 2017 · 4 min read

I originally prepared this material for a talk I gave in my workplace. I presented the following version at Ignite Berlin in September 2016. I was heavily influenced by A. Nelson-Hornstein’s “On Confidence”.

People have told me that they admire my confidence. That makes me privileged, because having confidence in the workplace matters.

Confident people have greater access to help and information

They are not afraid to ask for help when needed. And when they do ask for help, confident workers expect to understand the explanation provided. In fact, they’ll continue asking questions until they receive an explanation that makes sense to them.

Confident people have the freedom to be honest

They can readily admit mistakes, because don’t worry about looking bad when they’re wrong. By admitting mistakes, they can learn and move past mistakes.

Confident people make themselves heard and understood

They know their ideas are worthwhile, so they speak to colleagues at a calm, relaxed pace. If someone does not understand them, they re-explain until they are understood.

Confident people have influence and effect change

When their ideas are challenged, confident people assert their points of view and change the minds of others.

Confident people ensure they get commensurate compensation

They recognize the tremendous value they bring. This does not mean that having confidence means you deserve better compensation. It only means that confident people know their value, and insist on it.

Combating self-doubt

You can also get the benefits of having confidence even if you have self-doubt. There are tactics you can use to combat and compensate for self-doubt to get the same benefits as having confidence.

Get access to help and information

You can get access to help and information by reminding yourself that learning is part of your work, and that others are obligated to help you. Remind yourself that you possess knowledge and skills that others want too. Focus on getting the help you need that will increase your expertise.

Have the freedom to be honest

Remind yourself that admitting mistakes earns you respect and trust. People will learn that you will correct misinformation as soon as you are aware of it. People will learn that they can rely on you. And they will respect you for your honesty.

Be heard and understood

Speak louder and slower. In short: fake confidence. Emulate the delivery of a confident person. This can be learned. Ask your listeners if they understood you. Press on until they do.

Have influence and effect change

Gather and present the evidence to support your views. As you build a reputation, you will need the evidence to back up the things you say. Use any and all ways provided to you to present those views.

Lose your fear of being wrong by being open about what you are uncertain about. You may lack confidence because you know that you are missing details to give you a feeling of certainty. Not knowing something is not a personal weakness.

Get commensurate compensation

Know the value of your contribution. List out what the company would lose if no one was providing the contribution you bring. You can also ask your manager to help you make this list.

Learn how to say “I don’t feel I am being compensated for the contribution I make.” Leave companies that don’t value your work. Doing valuable work is not a favour, unless you are consciously making a personal sacrifice for a purpose that has meaning for you.

Building confidence

People have asked me how to become more confident. I have no idea how to become more confident. I gained my confidence from many people giving me confidence. What I can tell you are the many ways you can build up confidence in others.

  • Thank people for their help, and tell them when their help was valuable.
  • Be open and non-judgemental when people ask you for help.
  • Seek out the expert opinions of people who are junior to you.
  • Listen when quiet people are speaking, and make sure you understand their ideas and views.
  • Invite silent people to contribute.
  • Use your ability to command attention to direct it at others.
  • Thank people who admit mistakes, and elaborate on what the benefits of that admission were.
  • Tell people what evidence they could gather to convince you.
  • Explain to people what about their argument convinced you.
  • Tell people what you value about their contributions.
  • Tell people’s manager what you value about their contributions.
  • And, if it is in your power: Pay people fairly for their valuable contributions.

Confidence matters

Having confidence in the workplace matters and there are tactics for overcoming self-doubt. What I also hope you take away is that you can also build up confidence in others, to both be a decent colleague and to bring the best out of everyone.

Tiffany Conroy

Written by

Engineering Director. Developer. Cutter of bullshit. Made @weareallawesome. she/her (cis)

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