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How to Boost Your (and Others’) Confidence in the Workplace

By Vitality Coach Melissa Britton
Stress occurs when our perceived abilities do not match the demands of our environment. Those with low levels of confidence may therefore be exposed to higher levels of stress due to their belief that they cannot overcome the adversity they are faced with, putting themselves at risk of further mental1 and physical health2 problems.

So what can we do to protect our confidence in the workplace?
Set up a sports team at work
In a previous newsletter, we spoke about the positive impact being part of a sports team can have on your mental wellbeing, particularly on confidence levels. This view was echoed by Vitality Champions Director Maggie Alphonsi MBE, ex-England Women’s Rugby Player and 2014 Rugby World Cup Champion in a Vitality podcast. Maggie explained that being in a team creates a culture which promotes the growth of mind-sets, helping people to envision future success.

Interestingly, envisioning future success3  has been found to act as a predictor of the development of confidence and resilience. However, it appears that just being part of a sports team positively predicts self-confidence and acts as a buffer against stressors, mainly due to the emotional support available from their team mates4. Imagine transferring this feeling of support in to the workplace by creating a work sports team! So give it a try, get your colleagues involved in an exercise club/group and set up a sports team like a run/walk club or netball team.
Use criticism to your advantage
No matter how good we are at our job we will always face occasions where our work is criticised. Rather than allowing this to impact your confidence use this as an opportunity for growth and development. This form of coping is related to our type of mind-set. When faced with adversity people with a fixed mind-set are less likely to pay attention to the opportunities for development, causing a helpless response and impacting our confidence levels5. Work on developing your growth mind-set, view setbacks as opportunities to develop, rather than failure and most importantly learn from your mistakes.

When delivering feedback to your colleagues keep in mind the way you may have reacted to negative feedback in the past. Protect their confidence and whilst clearly delivering your feedback, try to reframe your criticism in a positive way. Highlight that your suggested changes are intended to support them to learn what the requirements of the organisation are, rather than you disliking their work. Highlight that your feedback is an opportunity for learning and always praise how far they have come.
Focus on your strengths
Many people will naturally focus on their weaknesses, which will inevitably impact confidence levels. Strengths refer to our traits that we yearn to frequently use and celebrate. Strengths guide our behaviours, thoughts, feelings and actions, unlike talent they cannot be wasted or ignored because they appear naturally in our day-to-day life. Research into strengths use has been found to boost confidence levels, optimism and resilience6. Have a go at identifying your strengths and explore ways to incorporate them in to your routine at work and support your colleagues to do the same. Alongside the above benefits strengths use has been found to promote job satisfaction, positive moods and productivity7. So encourage your colleagues to use their strengths too, higher levels of productivity mean less work for you and happier moods at work create a nicer environment.
Imperfection is perfection
Many of us strive for perfection, particularly in the workplace. However, it’s important to remember that even when you try your best someone, somewhere will criticise you. Setting yourself and your colleagues such unrealistic expectations will only dampen your confidence. Remember we are all human and we cannot please everyone, trying your best is the best we can do.
Knowledge is power
A fantastic way to enter in to a meeting oozing with confidence is to ensure that you are fully up to speed on all there is to know about your upcoming project. If you are working closely with your colleague on a piece of work meet regularly before meetings to ensure you both know all there is to know. This will allow you both to enter the meeting feeling confident and knowledgeable.
Confidence boosting exercise
Instructions: During your next meeting about your latest project outline one thing you are grateful for that another person in the team has done for you, and one thing you feel you have achieved since starting the project.
Why? Expressing gratitude towards others in the workplace has been found to create a nicer working environment. Highlighting a job well done may also make your colleagues feel more valued and act as a confidence boost. Sharing your achievements will support you to savour them and allow you to gain more enjoyment from the achievement. Reflecting on past achievements may also contribute to the development of increased confidence levels as you reflect on how you overcame a stressful situation. When faced with future stressors, this event may act as a reminder that you can overcome these.
1 Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. (2009). Sonia J. Lupien, Bruce S. McEwen, Megan R. Gunnar & Christine Heim. Nature Reviews Neuroscience volume 10, pages 434–445.
2 Work stress and coronary heart disease: what are the mechanisms?. Tarani Chandola Annie Britton Eric Brunner Harry Hemingway Marek Malik Meena Kumari Ellena Badrick Mika Kivimaki Michael Marmot. European Heart Journal, Volume 29, Issue 5, March 2008, Pages 640–648.
3 Aronowitz, T. (2005). The Role of “Envisioning the Future” in the Development of Resilience Among At‐Risk Youth. Public Health Nursing.
4 Freeman, P. and Rees, T. (2010). Perceived social support from team-mates: Direct and stress-buffering effects on self-confidence. European Journal of Sport Science, Vol 10, 1.
5 Kate Heferon and Ilona Boniwell. 2011. Positive Psychology: Theory, Research And Applications.
6 Clifton, D. O. and Anderson, E. C. (2001). StrengthsQuest. Washington: The Gallop Organization.
7 Lavy, S. and Littman-Ovadia, H. (2016). My Better Self: Using Strengths at Work and Work Productivity, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and Satisfaction. Journal of Career Development.