The Confidence Collection: Work Edition. How To Ask For More & Feel Like You Belong, No Matter The Work Challenge You’re Facing

Welcome to our new series, The Confidence Collection! There’s not a single person on the planet who hasn’t suffered a crisis of confidence at one point or another (TRUST us!). SO, we present The Confidence Collection brought to you by our pals at Caci. We’ll be covering all areas of self-belief in all areas of life – dating, work, relationships, beauty and personal growth – with practical advice, words of wisdom from women who have seen it, lived it and conquered it, and everything in between. In our third edition, we’re looking at confidence in the workplace: how to feel more confident at work, how to ask for more flexible conditions and how good workplaces can make employees feel more confident.

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Confidence at work can be one of the slipperiest types of confidence to hold onto, because so much of your work experience is out of your control. If you’ve ever had a tricky colleague, or a toxic boss, you’ll know just how much that negative experience can seep into the rest of your life. But that’s only one part of what forms our workplace confidence… or lack thereof! A sudden change of circumstances can always take a knock to our confidence, and if there’s one thing that has defined the last few pandemic years, it is constant change and constant uncertainty.

Lacking Confidence In The Workplace? You’re Not Alone

Rachel Service, CEO and Founder of Happiness Concierge, says that one of her first moves for clients who come to her about their lack of confidence is to assure them that there’s nothing unusual about feeling this way.

“During times of uncertainty, our confidence will naturally take a dip,” she says. “So there’s nothing wrong with you if you’ve signed up for the job of your dreams and then you think, ‘where is this inner critic or imposter coming from?’ And there’s nothing wrong with you if you’ve been made redundant, and you’ve been telling yourself for years, ‘I want to do my own thing anyway,’ and now you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’”

Rachel says that a sudden lack of confidence is not just a trap for young players. “There are people at the start of their career feeling it, but also people who are at retirement age, saying, ‘What’s next for me?’ And whether they’re 68 looking at their next step, or they’re 18, they all say, ‘I don’t know where my confidence has gone.’”

“What’s key to remember is that you’re feeling this way because you’re doing something new,” she says. “If you’re staying still, you might not be having these doubts. It’s a good sign – and very, very senior people can also have a confidence knock and they don’t know where to go, because they think ‘I shouldn’t be having this, this is something you feel in your 20s or 30s.’”

Rachel says in her own job, it’s the idea of feeling like a beginner that can trigger her own confidence issues. “Everyone is managing this – it happens when you’re doing things of substance and you’re not yet competent in them, so your confidence has taken a knock. And then you can choose to let that define you, or you can get on with getting better at that skill.”

How Good Workplaces Can Help You Feel More Confident At Work

With nearly two decades working in HR, and as the creator of workplace wellbeing accreditation programme Wellbeing Tick, Philly Powell knows the huge difference that good structural support can make for employee’s sense of confidence and wellbeing. The biggest difference, she says, is having competent leaders. “It’s about having great leaders who have been through formal training and also regularly building and adapting their leadership approach,” she says. “Then it’s about having a performance and development framework in place, so that employees are provided with regular one-on-ones, regular feedback and there’s an opportunity to get mentoring, support and training if needed.”

To have leaders actually trained in leadership is a big deal – both for those who work under them, but for the leaders themselves. One of the most common causes for lack of confidence in the workplace is that people aren’t given the training they need for the jobs they have.

Take this all-too-frequent example: You’re really, really good at your job doing a certain thing, so you get promoted. Suddenly, you’re no longer actually doing the thing, you’re running a team who are doing the thing. But the skill set of doing the thing and managing a team are COMPLETELY different. That’s how so many people end up floundering at management level, feeling like a beginner again at a job that demands expertise.

“It’s a real issue in so many workplaces,” Philly says. “It’s probably why we have so many people in workplaces that aren’t confident, that aren’t reaching their potential, because we’ve got inexperienced leaders.”

Philly also says that even though the new hybrid model of working between the home and the office has benefits for many workers, it can mean getting face-to-face time with your boss and having those regular check-in times for your performance can become far harder.

“A factor that comes up a lot with employees is that accessibility and approachability of a manager can make a big difference in how confident people feel in the workplace,” she says. The key to these catch-ups, Philly says, is to ask for a regular, recurring appointment in your diary – and if you work in a different location to your manager, it’s making those appointments even more frequent, to make up for the lack of watercooler chats that happen in an in-person workplace relationship.

The Confidence Equation

The sentence of ‘become more confident’ can feel like such a flimsy little statement – and also, there’s nothing like being told you need to work on your confidence to make you feel more insecure than ever (kind of like how being told ‘don’t stress!’ has the opposite effect). Over the years with her clients, Rachel Service came up with the confidence equation: Confidence = evidence, validation and self-belief.

“When we’re lacking confidence, we can give your brains a sense of certainty by focusing on something factual that no critic can counter such as evidence of our achievements. We can then create operation by sourcing meaningful third-party external to us, such as validation from people we respect and admire,” she says. “And then there’s the self-belief, which is ‘clarity on what I want, clarity that I really believe that I can and then the belief that I deserve what I get.’”

That final point, Rachel says, is often the hardest one to nail, in a world of imposter syndrome. But that’s when that evidence and validation can be so key – and that validation shouldn’t necessarily come from people already in your circle. “I would encourage people to not only going shopping around your network, but to be open to reaching out to people you don’t know and saying, ‘Hey, I see that you’ve done what I’m looking to do: would you be open to sharing one piece of advice for someone in my position?’”

To-Do Checklist To Feel More Confident At Work

Check In On Your Overall State of Mind, First
“It’s easy to think that what we’re thinking is the truth,” Rachel says. “Often when I’m in my inner critic world – ‘I haven’t made enough money, I haven’t done enough, my marketing is no good’ – it’s important for me to step back and say, ‘Okay, this might be true, but what might also be true is: have I had lunch today? Have I showered or am I still in my trackpants from 6am? Have I left the house?’ We can forget that these fundamentals are fundamental for a reason – when you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired, these are all triggers that can set off a self-confidence spiral. But there’s nothing we can’t fix if we haven’t had a snack, a nap or some time away.”

Do Your Research
“When you’re putting a case forward for a change in position or hours, you’ve got to have a bit of a business case for why you deserve it,” Philly Powell says. “Say you’re asking for a promotion, then you need to do your research. Bring the facts with you.”

Name Your Inner Critic
One tip Rachel gives her clients is to name their inner critic, so they can become more aware of when that critical voice is overriding their thoughts. “For example, my inner critic is ‘Snappy the crocodile,’” Rachel says. “She’s snappy, she’s judgemental, she’s quick to bite back. And then I have my higher self that I aspire to be, who is ‘Ra-yoncé’, and she thinks anything is possible. And then there’s me in the middle, and every day I’m choosing between them. But by doing that, we’re training ourselves to believe that more than one thing can be true – and just because I think it, it doesn’t mean I need to believe it.”

Own Your Own Development
When Philly wanted to start her own business while still working at her full-time job at Chorus, she came up with her own development plan. “If you’re really clear on what you what you want to achieve – short, medium and long-term plans – and what you need to get there, you can work out the steps you need to take,” she says. “Set your intentions and work out what you need to get better at.” She took her plan to her manager and explained what she wanted – and how it would benefit the company in the long-term. “I told them how I would make it work and they supported me at every step,” she says, because they could see the bigger picture.

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