Have your employees lost confidence in their ability to do their work?

Perhaps the company is working with fewer resources on bigger projects.

Maybe employees have had to take on more responsibilities.

Or perhaps the company structure has changed due to a re-org or new leadership.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve noticed employees are less engaged or less productive, they likely could benefit from more confidence at the workplace. As a leader, you possess the skills and some might argue, the obligation, to encourage your employees’ confidence. Not only will they be happier in their jobs and more likely to be retained, but in challenging situations, their increased confidence will help ease transitions, reduce tension and increase motivation. Here are my five suggestions for how to increase confidence in your employees.

1. Open lines of communication

Keep the lines of communication open with all employees, at all times. According to The Carrot Principle by Adam Gostick and Hester Elton, your very best performers are also often the most insecure people in the organization. Talk with employees about their work environment, even those exhibiting no signs of stress or lack of confidence. Don’t assume you know which employees will benefit the most from this conversation. Have it with all of them and have it often. Specifically address:

  • The company: What’s important to the company at this time? What are the business objectives?
  • Their role: How does he/she make a difference? How do his/her efforts align with the business objectives?
  • Their motivation: What’s in it for him/her when he/she does make a difference?

2. Set Clear Expectations

Ensure employees understand what is expected of them. Link these expectations to benefits for the company as well as the employee personally. A best practice is to write them down and regularly review to measure progress and course correct when necessary. Confidence in the workplace involves trusting and believing in the leaders. In turn, make sure you understand what the organization and your manager expect of YOU.

3. Be Conscious about Recognition

It is important to notice and recognize when employees meet their personal goals or achieve steps toward meeting goals. Recognition does not have to be expensive or take a lot of time – sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. It’s important to be specific about the behavior or result being recognized and to connect it back to the company’s goals. It’s also important to give recognition evenly and consistently. Strong leaders will find something to recognize in each employee based on their daily job performance and contributions to the overall business goals.

4. Encourage Idea Sharing

Encourage employees to share their ideas and create forums where these ideas can be easily exchanged. Be fully in the moment during these sessions giving your employees and their ideas your full attention. Adopt the philosophy, “There is no bad idea in idea sharing.” Listen closely and take opportunities to build rapport across the team, group or company. Having a voice and having it heard is important in boosting confidence.

5. Reduce negative talk

As I recommended in Increase Your Self Confidence in the Workplace, changing the little voice in your head that says, “You can’t do that” or “You’re not smart enough for this” into more positive thoughts eventually helps your brain change the interpretation of the situation. As you become more optimistic, you build self-confidence about your abilities to handle the work. Similarly, replacing negative talk with optimism will help employees build more confidence in their abilities to do their job and motivation to work toward the team and company’s goals.

Taking these simple steps will help boost employees’ self-confidence in their ability to do their job well and feel confident about their value to the organization. By building their confidence, you will make a difference in your employees’ commitment to their work and establish more positive outcomes for the company.

An unknown source said, “With confidence, you can reach amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond our grasp.”

What amazing heights will you help your employees reach today?


Linda O’Neill is the vice president of strategic services at Vigilant, a company dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve their most complex employment issues. Linda is a certified executive coach and organizational development expert who works with Vigilant members companies to create high functioning organizations, at the individual, team and systemic levels. Linda is graduate of the University of Oregon, BS in journalism and public relations.

Katherine-FritzThough she only owns one pair of heels, Katie Fritz heads up brand and marketing efforts as the Marketing Manager at Trippeo Inc., which develops an app for tracking travel and expenses for businesses. Since joining in July of 2014, Katie has worked with the Trippeo team to help identify their audience and build a cohesive brand voice.

Previously, Katie worked as a writer, and spends her free time at the pottery studio or working on her small floral design business. We had the pleasure of speaking with her and learn about the challenges and benefits of being a woman in the world of tech start-ups.

As a Marketing Manager you have helped put Trippeo on the map, helping this application become one of the most sought-after expense management software. What is your secret?

A manager is only as good at the team that they work with. Obviously there are dynamics within a team that makes one more or less successful, but we’re really lucky at Trippeo. I came onto a team with a high degree of emotional intelligence, as well as top-quality skill sets in development, sales, etc. We’re a small team; we have to get along and understand each other if we’re going to work effectively together. Thankfully, we’re all on the same page about what we want to do: build something great that solves problems and works beautifully. The road to getting to that goal has lots of weird offshoots, and my job is reining in those crazy ideas and make sure that they suit, delight, and make sense to the businesses we’re making this app for.

Holding a managerial role must have its challenges. How do you handle them?

Well, working at any start-up demands that you be ready to drop everything and pivot at basically a moment’s notice. Being a good improviser is key. You can’t love anything you’ve planned or made too much because the reality is that it’s going to change or be outdated within a few weeks. If you have a big ego, it’s going to get its ass kicked at a start-up.

Getting your ego destroyed is actually really beneficial to being a manager, because you’re more able to look at the solutions to a problem and not favor your own method. Good written verbal communication helps too, and having a wrought iron sense of humor. Being on friendly terms with your colleagues not only makes it more fun to come into work everyday, it makes pulling long hours on grinding projects a lot more enjoyable. .

I guess in summary, it’s my personal belief that a good sense of humor and the ability to be nimble will take you much further in life than the ability to plan something to the hilt.

The tech industry is still, to some extent, considered to be a man’s world. How fast do you think that this is changing, since we are seeing more and more women CEOs at some of the leading tech start-ups?

On paper, the gendered landscape of the tech industry is changing really fast: we’re seeing more female CEOs, investors, entrepreneurs, etc etc. And that’s great. I love reading their stories, I’d love to work with them. But I think it would be a mistake to say that women have overcome the gender gap in the tech industry. Too much of the published recognition is based on the novelty of being a woman.

Businesswomen who accomplish incredible funding raises or build huge companies are gaining recognition for their accomplishments in the space, and we call that progress… but that’s just how meritocracy works. I have a lot of hope for women in the space right now, and I’m excited to have my feet on the ground and be in the middle of it. And if our community keeps growing and changing as much as we’ve done in the last ten years, then the future looks really bright.

You are a social activist and someone who is very publicly outspoken when it comes to women rights. Has this affected your work in any way?

I’m sure it’s affected my working environment, but I’m fine with that. I’m a feminist, and I don’t have patience for comments or attitudes that would demean the personhood of another. I think that sets a high standard of communication for my interactions. I like that. I want to encourage people to think and choose their words carefully when we speak. If that scares or bothers people, that’s more a reflection on their being attached to the status quo than my being rigid.

I want to encourage people to think and choose their words carefully when we speak.

I don’t have this issue at the Trippeo office. Sure, my male co-workers occasionally mess up and say something sexist–usually unintentionally. I’ve found the best way to deal with friends and colleagues making such remarks is to point out their casual sexism. So much of such comments are culturally inherited, and we (myself included!) don’t always think before we repeat idioms that are actually really regressive and harmful to women everywhere. In the office specifically, I just make fun of my workmates. It contributes to a healthy conversation, and we all get a kick out of it. It’s fun.

In addition to your two corporate jobs, you are also a freelance writer and florist! How does that fit into your busy schedule?

The work I do with Trippeo is really analytical and computer based: research, chatting with sales people, throwing around pitch ideas. It’s a complex job, but I don’t feel like it uses every part of my brain. Floral design is so immediate: you take the materials and you make something. Then you can break it all down and make it again, or watch it cycle through its life. My more recent work with bridal clients and marketing teams has been really satisfying, because it lets me share my excitement for the craft.

Freelance writing is something I’ve done since university. I actually did my undergrad in Creative Writing. The freedom to accept jobs I am really excited about keeps the work fresh and fun, like solving a puzzle rather than cranking away at a math problem. And scheduling? Well, that’s ever evolving. Some days I wake up at 4AM and hit the flower auction, and others I sleep till 8:30AM and then ride my bike to the Trippeo office. Having a really rigid schedule has never worked for me. I want to get up and then immediately jump into something that excites me.

Finally, what would be your message to all the young women starting up in the world of start-ups?

Be tough, be kind. Stand up for yourself, and earn respect through hard work. Gender is a factor, so don’t let it trip you up. As long as the tech industry treats the achievements of women like they are seeing bears do backflips (that is to say, amazing and previously inconceivable feats), you will have to work twice as hard for half the recognition. Just consider it an opportunity to build your character, and use your frustration to light fires under your own butt.

Be tough, be kind. Stand up for yourself, and earn respect through hard work. Gender is a factor, so don’t let it trip you up.

Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep and have a life some days. Ask for performance reviews and feedback so you can keep growing. Know and check in with what you want: your goals will change, so make sure your approach does too. Most importantly: if you don’t like what you’re doing, change.

Some of the toughest conversations that we are confronted with as managers occur when addressing poorly performing employees. Whether it is based on the employee’s results, their skills and experience, their behaviour and attitude or more serious issues of bullying and misconduct; these conversations can be tough, and as a result they are often avoided.

As you are probably aware, if these issues are not managed promptly and in the correct manner, they can continue to build within the workplace and have the propensity to affect staff productivity and workplace culture.

So how do you manage these tough conversations? Here are some simple steps to educate yourself and your managers on how to prepare for these difficult conversations and ensure you manage the problem effectively from beginning to end:

Prior to the Meeting:

  • Address the matter as soon as possible
  • Set a specific time and place for the conversation, ensuring you give the appropriate notice
  • Offer a support person if you are undergoing a formal process as it is a legislative requirement
  • Be prepared:

o Gather all relevant information relating to the issue

o Understand what the purpose or objective is of the discussion

o Remove any emotion and ensure you focus on the problem, not the person

o Understand their personality – this will assist you to predict how they will react and engage during your conversation

o Be ready for bad reactions – unfortunately these will occur at times, however it is best to remain composed, be empathetic yet firm, and demonstrate your point by producing further examples

During the meeting:

  • Be specific about your concerns and ensure you provide detailed examples
  • Allow the person the opportunity to respond, be prepared to listen and consider their responses
  • Remain composed and solutions-focused
  • Set clear expectations with the employee through informal goal-setting or a formal development plan
  • Advise what the consequences are of not improving
  • Set review or follow-up dates – it is important to monitor performance to ensure your expectations are being met

After the meeting:

• Document the meeting so that you have a record of your concerns, your expectations and the action plan

• Monitor performance and provide support, feedback and training where necessary

• Assess the need for further performance management

By following the outlined steps, you will ensure that the issues are approached from an impartial point of view, and that your message is conveyed clearly and constructively. More importantly, the employee will become aware of how they are impacting the business and their colleagues and will have access to a clear action plan detailing how to rectify the issues in question.

These steps will also ensure procedural fairness and compliance and minimise risk for your business. Most importantly however, following a structured process will allow you to confront these issues head-on; ultimately resulting in productive employees and a strong and positive workplace culture.

Sue-Ellen Watts – Managing Director, wattsnext

Sue-Ellen Watts wattsnextSue-Ellen is the Managing Director of HR firm wattsnext which specialises in working with small to medium sized businesses to help them achieve amazing business. She has a background in leading teams, strategic recruitment and leadership coaching and now specialises in HR Management, staff performance, HR Compliance and recruitment. Sue-Ellen started her business in her spare bedroom with the aim of providing the same support to small to medium sized businesses that larger corporations received but was not available to them. Her business has now grown to over 150 clients and 12 staff members.

Image source: Ronny Richert