4 Ways to Empower Insecure Employees


Do you have employees who take it personally when you critique their work, or who need constant acknowledgement and appreciation?

One of my readers recently requested tips for dealing with “horribly insecure people.” When I asked what inspired her question, she told me about a meeting with one of her employees.

“I told him we missed an important step in building the code for a software program,” she said. “And I needed him to fix it. Rather than simply fixing the code, he proceeded to argue with me about the quality of his work.”

“How does this make him insecure?” I asked.

“He clearly wanted me to tell him that the work he’s done is good!” she said.

According to Psychology Today, “Maintaining self-esteem is a lifelong psychological process. Think of self-esteem as a mental muscle that must be developed and maintained through regular psychological workouts.”

While your employees’ self-esteem is not your responsibility, their performance is. Leaders want employees who, in essence, lead themselves. Yet, the vast majority of people need a little push from time to time.

Sometimes that means a few words of appreciation. Other times, it means helping them see what they’re capable of achieving.

Here are four ways to empower your insecure team members:  

1. Clarify Competency. Your validation certainly helps, but your employees ultimately need to see their own value and to continue developing their skills. Doing so will decrease the fear associated with change and uncertainty. Ask them to tell you about their greatest strengths and how their contributions matter. Also ask them to consider what the market is going to need in the next two to three years and how they are preparing themselves now to be relevant then.

2. Set Goals. Get them focused on achievement, and they’ll spend less time worrying about their worthiness. Ask them to send you three goals they want to achieve in the next four weeks. Then, look for ways to help. (If you’re interested in an excellent goal-setting sheet, please email me.)

3. Instigate. Find tasks/projects that stretch them beyond their perceived limitations and help them see new potential in themselves. Kathy Albarado, CEO of Helios HR, told me in an interview, “Part of my leadership style is to encourage people to go well beyond their comfort zones. I see things in people that they often don’t see in themselves. And it’s amazing the feedback I get when they try something new and are successful. They get excited.”  

4. Care. Successfully motivating insecure employees has everything to do with caring about them as people. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of how great we are, and other times we need someone to give us a kick in the pants to reach new levels of success. The trick is in knowing what’s needed, which of course requires knowing the people we lead

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes

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