Confidence in the workplace is important. Whether you’re feeling unstoppable because you crushed a recent project or just because your hair is extra bouncy today (listen, I’ll take what I can get), it matters.
That’s because people who know how to be confident in their abilities may be one big step closer to making meaningful contributions in many areas of their lives, including in the professional sphere. If you work with people who are confident in their abilities, your work together could be stronger, more impactful, and maybe even more fun.
Projecting confidence can inspire others and may be one way to help others see us as more competent. There are many obstacles to confidence, but they are worth overcoming so that we don’t risk missing out on victories, opportunities, and relationships that could be life-changing.
We can boost our own confidence, of course, but it’s worth looking beyond ourselves too. If we want to work in an environment that’s more positive and productive, we can start by changing the way we interact with our colleagues.
The good news is that all of us have the ability to boost someone’s confidence, and who is more deserving than a coworker with whom you spend 40 hours a week?
You know how awesome it can feel when someone compliments your work. Now, take a moment to celebrate a recent success by your coworker by sharing what it meant to you. You don’t even have to be a supervisor to make this work. Just tell your colleague how their efforts made a difference in your world.
“Employees get a sense of purpose when they see how their regular deliverables contribute to organizational success,” Rajeev Bhardwaj, who heads the human resources department at Sun Life Asia Service Centre, wrote in an article for Entrepreneur. “Getting acknowledged gives them a reason to work harder. In [the] longer term, it helps in retaining talent. Moreover, it creates a culture of appreciation within the organization.”
Those positive thoughts can make a difference in many ways, experts say. This can be a really good start at helping someone feel appreciated, but if you’re looking for a tactic that leans less on your own familiarity with their work, let’s talk about a few more options.
See them as a whole person — not just a coworker.
Consider this situation: your coworker is usually pretty positive and productive, but she’s working on a big project that seems to be really complex. You’ve seen her frustration as she exits her manager’s office, and she’s been leaving the office later and later. But you’re not her supervisor, and you’re not directly involved with her project. What do you do?
It turns out, it may not matter that your workplace responsibilities don’t overlap. Think about what you do have in common: you’re both humans who have lives outside of the office and are honestly just trying to do the best they can. You both put all of yourselves into your job, and while showing your vulnerabilities can be scary, it also offers opportunities to elevate relationships.
“The foundation of bringing your whole self to work is authenticity, which is about showing up honestly, without self-righteousness, and with vulnerability,” Mike Robbins wrote in an article for the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good.
If her desktop background or some framed art in her office catches your eye, whether it’s a hilarious photo from one of her camping trips or an artistic design she selected, compliment it and ask about it. Maybe you can just tell her a funny story and see if she’s up for sharing a quick laugh in the middle of the workday.
These are good choices because right now — when she’s struggling — is a great time to remind her that she’s more than a worker who’s muddling through a difficult project — she’s a unique human being who is valued by the people around her.
Learn something new together.
Some workers have the opportunity to develop their skills in an organized setting on a regular basis. If that’s you, awesome! But if your workday doesn’t involve many intentional learning opportunities, consider taking it upon yourself to create learning opportunities at work.
Try finding a great article online and sending it in a quick and lighthearted email, making it clear that you think you’d both benefit from the information.
Strategically offer support or help.
Be careful with this one — offering help can be a minefield, according to work by researcher Russell Johnson and his team at Michigan State University. Even when your heart is in the right place, Johnson has warned, your offer to help can have unintended consequences.
“If you swoop in without being asked, you’re more likely to threaten your coworker’s sense of autonomy and mastery at work and diminish his or her self-esteem,” he told the Harvard Business Review.
But it’s possible that sometimes an offer of help may be just what’s needed. In those cases, it’s best to tread lightly and let your coworker take the lead. Maybe you could suggest a brainstorming session on a project you’re working together on and plan the next steps from there.
“It might be better to approach with a question — ‘Anything I can do to help?’ — and allow your colleague to say yes or no,” Russell told HBR in the previously-mentioned article. “I think tone and body language are probably important, too.”
No matter how you go about building a coworker’s confidence, remember to keep it positive and focused on their strengths and achievements. Positive relationships can lead to increased engagement and help make your workplace more productive, more satisfying, and yes, hopefully even a little more enjoyable. Give it a try and see for yourself!