How to Deal with Insecurity in the Workplace
- Wendy van Eyck Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 30 Oct
I attended a conference to learn more how to communicate better with social media. But three years later, the lesson that sticks with me isn’t about how to tweet, Facebook or Instagram. Instead it’s a little throw away line the presenter said without thinking, “The worse kind of boss is an insecure one.”
At the time I managed 30 people. I was new to the position and still trying to find my leadership style. I’d never thought that insecurity could negatively impact my leadership. I decided to start trying to evaluate when I reacted to something the people I worked with did because it made me feel insecure.
I found that it was quite easy for me to uncover when my reactions came from a place of insecurity. I acted out of insecurity when I found myself scared to ask a question, because I was scared my staff would think I knew less than them. I acted out of insecurity when I squashed someone’s idea before they had a chance to share it, because I thought if others had better ideas than me, people would wonder why I was the boss.
John C. Maxwell that describes 10 characteristics that make insecure leaders ineffective. Here are a few:
1. They want control. This is exhibited through a fear of delegating responsibilities or empowering others. Other times it shows up in their resistance to change.
2. They fear public failure. And will do anything to avoid looking stupid in front of others. In my case this meant I was too scared to ask questions when I didn’t understand something.
3. They avoid risk. If they don’t know how something will end then they would rather stick with what they know. Instead they will stay in their comfort zone.
4. They are closed in their relationships. They don't open up because they fear rejection.
5. They do not hire 10s. Instead of hiring top-notch people they hire mediocre people who won’t expose their own weaknesses.
6. They create an environment of insecurity. This makes the people they lead confused and unsettled because they never know what's going to happen next.
For me, simply recognizing which of my behaviors were born out of insecurity made a big difference for me. Learning to lead out of a place of security definitely didn’t happen overnight. Right up until my last day at that job I still had moments when I thought, “I’m going to sound silly if I ask that.” The difference was that I learned that asking questions, or allowing other people to shine in their roles, didn’t diminish me as a leader but rather allowed them to live up to their full potential in the workplace.
Maybe you aren’t the boss, but you work for someone who fits the characteristics John C. Maxwell described. If so, here are a couple of survival tips that will help on the days when their insecurity is making them yell at, set straight, and micro-manage you.
First, of all, remember that her or his reaction isn’t a reflection of your inability but of their insecurity.
Second, figure out how to make your boss feel secure in his or her job by recognizing their input when you have a success or asking for their assistance when you have a problem you can’t solve.
I recently switched jobs and I am no longer the boss. I've found there are a number of incidents when I've reacted out of insecurity again. And I've started wondering if it isn't also true that the worst of kind of employee is an insecure one.
For starters, I’ve realized that my insecurity as an employee is based on fear: the fear of making a mistake, the fear of failing to meet expectations or the fear of losing my job. I’ve also discovered that sometimes I’m reacting to my own fears about my performance and other times I’m reacting to my bosses management style.
I haven’t quite figured out how to overcome the insecurities that my current position is exposing, but I do know that insecurity breeds insecurity and that the best way to beat it is to face it head on. So I’ve been trying a few things that seem to be helping. The first has been simply recognizing what behavior is coming out of insecurity. I’m once again defending ideas when I should be exploring new ones, keeping knowledge to myself, nit picking and even name dropping from time-to-time.
I’m not proud of the way I’ve been behaving, which is why I'm trying to replace these actions with telling trusted friends about my insecurities, comparing myself with myself (seeing if I'm better what I do today then I was yesterday) rather than comparing myself to others, and I'm trying to motivated by opportunities rather than fear.
And I’m taking all of this to God and saying, “Lord, change me.” I’m asking God to help me identify the moments where insecurity drives me so that I can change.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.
Publication date: October 30, 2014