By Perminus Wainaina
Do you stand up for yourself at the workplace? Do you take credit where deserved or do you let another colleague take all the praise? Do you accept fault for mistakes you did not commit? Do you find it hard to talk up in meetings or freeze when asked to present?
Early on in my career, I worked with a gentleman who for privacy’s sake, I will refer to as John. He would never speak up for himself. The banking industry – where I began my career, can be very competitive. Each day, we had to meet our deliverables.
Some of the other colleagues would take advantage of the fact that John was timid. They asked him to prepare their reports, print their work, and even sometimes went as far as asking him to do their work. In the time I worked there, not once did John speak up for himself. He would spend most of his time doing other people’s work.
Like John, you too might be battling with timidity and lack of confidence at the workplace. While you might get along with most people, being timid can stall your career.
Confidence in the workplace is vital. If you allow your colleagues to push you over, not only will you be stressed most of the time, you might also lose track of your career.
Why is confidence so important in the workplace? Here are some reasons why assertiveness and confidence are encouraged at work and in life.
- Confidence builds opportunities – When you’re confident, you’ll go after most opportunities that could further your career. Moreover, even your bosses will entrust with responsibilities. For instance, if your boss can’t make it to a meeting, they could send you as they know you’ll rightly represent them.
- Assertiveness builds self-confidence and self-esteem – Where do you get your validation from? Do others have to tell you that you’ve done well for you to be content? If you’re confident at work, you will likely not seek validation from others. You’ll understand that only you can make yourself feel great about the value of your work.
- Confidence helps you handle change better –While employed, you do not know what tomorrow may hold. You can wake up one morning and find you’ve been moved to a different department,9 or even transferred to a different branch. With confidence, you’ll embrace the change, perhaps even look at it as an opportunity to grow. If you lack confidence, however, you will find it hard to cope with change.
- Assertiveness reduces stress – Stress can be a hindrance to career growth. While stressed, you’ll find it hard to be effective at work.
It is evident the place for assertiveness and confidence at the workplace cannot be emphasized enough. How then, do you build confidence? How do you ensure you are assertive at the workplace and in life? Here are a few ways you can build your confidence.
1. Establish boundaries
At the workplace, boundaries are important. The primary reason you are there is to work. That should be your first priority. Relationships are important as they create synergy, but if the relationships you form sabotage your work, you should rid yourself from them.
John, for example, was friendly to everyone. This gave the other employees a way to manipulate him.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for friendships at the workplace. However, in the case of John, he should have established boundaries; you don’t need to befriend everyone.
Even if you foster relationships at work, have your limit. Differentiate between helping out a colleague, and bending over backward for them. Additionally, relationships should be mutually beneficial.
2. Practice and prepare!
Remember the last time you attended an interview? You had spent time preparing for questions, planning what to wear, and even calculating how long it’ll take you to get to the interview venue. With such levels of preparation, you would likely ace the interview and get the job.
The same applies to building confidence. If for example, you have a department meeting coming up, you should write down your all key pointers. Go over them over and again. Ensure you’re conversant with everything you plan on talking about.
If you walk into a meeting unprepared, you’ll be nervous and this will undoubtedly lower your confidence.
In every scenario within your control, prepare and practice in advance.
Quick Read>>> 4 Principles To Effective Communication
3. Differentiate between assertiveness and aggressiveness
One reason why you might lack confidence at work is thinking you’re being aggressive. In a nutshell, aggressiveness is being rude, talking loudly, not respecting other people’s opinions, and not considering their feelings. On the other hand, being assertive is being firm about your beliefs and values while respecting the opinion of others.
If you refuse to do your coworker’s report, you’re not being rude, you’re being assertive.
4. Know your rights
Sometimes, a coworker or supervisor will take advantage of you simply because you do not understand your rights.
For example, The Employment Act clearly states, in every seven days of work, you are entitled to one full day (24 hours) of rest. It also states for every month you work, you’re entitled to at least 1.75 leave days.
Without this knowledge, an employer could take advantage of you. However, equipped with this information, you will have the confidence to request for an off day as you know it is within your rights.
Related Read>>> Types Of Leaves In Kenya
5. Improve your communication skills
How well do you articulate your thoughts? Are you able to communicate your ideas with ease? Do you fill your speech with irrelevant information and filler words?
All of these can affect your confidence. If you’re anxious, you can’t communicate effectively, you’ll likely shy off to the back of the room.
Effective communication can greatly improve your confidence levels. Use the internet as a resource, read on how to improve your communication, join an effective communication class.
Finally, when you look through and beyond the workplace, you’ll notice an array of professionals who have had their careers stall simply because of a lack of confidence. On the flipside, you’ll notice people who have excelled and can attribute some of the success to their confidence levels. An example is the governor of Nairobi, Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’. He has excelled in politics due to his assertiveness. The current Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security, Fred Matiang’i is also a great example of how confidence can help you excel at work and in life.
Start working on your confidence today, and see your career thrive.
Perminus Wainaina is the C.E.O and Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a leading HR & Recruitment consultancy firm based in Westlands. Through personalized career coaching he assists mid-level and senior professionals get solutions to complex and challenging career issues that they are facing. Click here for more on career coaching.