What’s Missing From Your Work Culture?
What comes to mind when you think of a healthy, no-drama work environment? If you’re thinking good communication, equity initiatives, lightheartedness, and support without blame, shame and guilt, you’re bang on! Those ingredients are absolutely necessary for cooking the deliciously positive-work-culture gumbo that EVERY successful business should be serving up right about now, but there’s something else!
A not-so-obvious, less talked about, ingredient is confidence. If you’re a leader who’s kept it together through these crazy times, remains guided by instinct, and is never worried about having lettuce in your teeth post-lunch, you might not see yourself as lacking in the confidence department.
The tricky thing about confidence, though, is that its absence manifests in different ways, making it difficult to get to the root of a problem. Think of it as treating hip pain when the problem is really in your lower back. Until you figure out the source of the pain, any relief you get will be temporary.
Does any of the following sound familiar?
He’s probably going to think I’m an idiot if I ask another question. That’s twice this week she’s dismissed my proposal; I’m starting to think this is personal. I heard he lost that big account; that’s not gonna go over well with upper management.
You may wonder what being too afraid to ask for help, taking things too personally and gossiping have in common. Confidence is about trust: trust in yourself and trust in others. If you work in an office (even a virtual one), or if you’re part of a team, you may feel like trust issues just come with the territory.
Common doesn’t mean healthy or good. Science tells us that lack of trust and negative thinking erodes job happiness and zaps team spirit faster than you can say, “Dang! Who burned the gumbo!?”
Rachel, an ad writer working with multiple teams, related, “I know that my work is good, but it could be even better. There are times when I could use a bit more guidance but I don’t reach out.” Coaching Rachel through a clarity exercise uncovered that her hesitation to ask for help was connected to her desire to come across as confident. In other words, she didn’t ask for support because she wanted her team to feel like they could trust her in her role. We call this type of strategy a backfire approach.
A bit more coaching brought Rachel to the realization that she had been avoiding three people in particular. Hmm…the plot thickens!!
There were two angles to confidence at play here. The first, perhaps more obvious, was that Rachel lacked the confidence to approach her team. But there was also a confidence problem stemming from the management side of things. Let’s unpack that.
Rachel worried that she would be seen as annoying or incompetent if she asked more questions. Could this be because the people overseeing her projects didn’t do their best to encourage open communication and a spirit of understanding and support?
Employees are not the only ones at risk for using backfire approaches. Sometimes, in a bid to gain respect or come across as a tough not-to-be-messed-with boss, managers put on a suit of armour.
It’s true that being prickly to the touch can be an effective way to get people to take you seriously and keep shenanigans to a minimum, but it can also backfire by contributing to a toxic work culture.
Confidence in your Leadership Role
Confidence is about more than trusting in your own ability to get things done. And it’s not about flexing your authority. Displaying true confidence means reinforcing a spirit of openness and approachability so that the people who work for you (and with you) feel comfortable coming to you for help. Competence is the ability to do something successfully and efficiently; the definition says nothing about doing it alone.
A recent study found that out of 1000 employees, almost two-thirds considered quitting their job over poor workplace communication. Crazy right? Well, not really. Poor communication wreaks havoc on work culture. Who wants to work somewhere where people are unable to express themselves in a healthy, productive way, or talk behind each other’s backs, or a place where accountability and support are hard to come by?
Don’t watch your valuable employee walk out the door (or Zoom meeting) for good.
- When someone takes the time to run something past you, express appreciation for their prudence. I get it, it can be a bit irritating when questions come at a busy time or if they’ve been asked before, but keep in mind that developing approachability will increase team competency and build what? Trust! This means fewer mistakes will be made, more tasks will be completed and employee retention will be at a high.
- If you’re finding that the same person keeps asking the same questions or is making repeated mistakes, get to the bottom of which needs aren’t being met. Providing task clarity, additional training, or conducting an assessment of the individual’s proficiency might be necessary.
- If you’re finding that multiple people are having trouble with the same project, it could be a sign that the problem is universal. Time management issues, unclear objectives, lack of motivation, or relationship tension could be at play here. Call a team meeting (or us) and get to the bottom of it.
Confidence in Your Supportive Role
Maybe you can relate to our friend, Rachel, who initially struggled to ask for help. If so, reach out to the people who oversee your projects. To overcome her fear of coming off as a failure, Rachel applied what she learned about backfire approaches and used her newly developed communication skills to remove barriers and build her confidence.
In an update, Rachel expressed that the conversations with her managers resulted in increased productivity and better relationships with all members of her teams. “Now, when problems come up, I don’t get anxious and stressed out; I just get in touch with someone who I know can support me.”
Since having this breakthrough, one of her managers has said that she trusts Rachel more now, citing the maturity and courage it took to initiate what would have been a tough conversation for most people.
Good Vibes Only
The days of barking at employees and bringing down the hammer over small things just to set an example are over. The new way to display confidence is by building it up from within. Your employees will notice and follow your lead!
Staying happy, healthy, and contributing to the wellness of your team takes conscious, continuous effort, but you don’t have to give yourself and your workplace a makeover on your own.