Confidence is a huge factor in your career development. When you believe in yourself, you're more likely to achieve the goals you set. But self-doubt in the workplace is still a big issue for many professionals, even when they have the support of their boss or colleagues.
In a survey conducted for her book, "The Confidence Myth" (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015), author Helene Lerner discovered that many people, particularly women, wait until they feel 100 percent confident in themselves before making a career move, such as asking for a raise or taking a new position. However, waiting for this moment of what she calls "capital-C Confidence" often means the window of opportunity passes, she said.
"Confidence with a big 'C' is a myth," said Lerner, who founded WomenWorking.com, a career website for women. "We hold ourselves back from valuable opportunities if we wait for everything to line up and to have all our skills in place. [We] have to redefine confidence and understand that courage is the main ingredient for success for achieving their goals."
There are plenty of factors that can hurt a person's confidence at work. Although Lerner's survey respondents were all women, the top five confidence killers they identified can affect any professional, regardless of gender. [See Related Story: 5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Confidence at Work]
Perfectionism. High-performing employees often pressure themselves to reach lofty standards, and sometimes become discouraged when they fail to achieve them, Lerner said.
"We have to stop the negative chatter and tell ourselves, 'Our best is good enough,'" Lerner said. "Make it an inner mantra."
Micromanager bosses. Being micromanaged can make a person feel like his or her work isn't good enough. Why else would the boss be nitpicking and telling you exactly how to complete a task? But in most cases, you probably aren't doing anything wrong; Lerner noted that fear is usually underneath controlling behavior.
"[Your boss's] micromanaging probably has more to do with how that person feels about him or herself, not you," she said.
Disengagement at work. One of the most common reasons for feeling disconnected from your job — and therefore, lacking confidence in it — is doing work that doesn't leverage your skills. Everyone has talents and abilities, and if you're not using them at your job, you may want to start investigating other opportunities, Lerner suggested.
Another option is to maintain an optimistic and encouraging attitude toward your performance at work. Instead of focusing on all of the things you didn't get to each day, celebrate your successes by keeping a "success journal," said Cynthia J. Sax, senior vice president of consulting services at Caliper, a talent management company.
"At the end of each day, list at least three things that you did well or times where you made a positive contribution," Sax said.
Fear of failure. Everyone wants to "get it right" in their careers, but you shouldn't let the fear of getting it wrong stand in your way of trying something new. A project may not turn out as planned, and you may make mistakes. But as long as you learn from those experiences, you haven't truly failed, Lerner said.
"Some of the greatest 'failures' have led to innovation," Lerner said. "Our research reflected this — [respondents] said that they got more confidence from learning from their mistakes and moving on."
Uncooperative or critical colleagues. Working with rude, arrogant or otherwise unpleasant individuals can really lower your job satisfaction, especially if their negativity is directed at you. As with micromanagers, Lerner urged professionals not to take the behavior too personally, but also advised making an effort to work things out with their colleague.
"Clean up your side of the street," Lerner said. "Is there anything you are doing to contribute to the [negative] situation? If so, take appropriate action."
Keeping your confidence high
Lerner said people who want to beat these "confidence killers" and advance their careers need to take risks that enable them to accomplish their goals, even if they don't feel ready to do so. For example, she advised offering thoughtful suggestions in meetings, stepping in to help without being asked and seeking a trusted second opinion that encourages you to make a move you'd been considering.
According to Lerner's survey, using skills and making an impact (86 percent) and the ability to make mistakes and recover from them (76 percent) also help enhance confidence in the workplace.
Workers should also continually assess what's hurting their confidence and actively work to overcome their personal hurdles.
"Self-awareness is huge," Lerner told Business News Daily. "Just knowing what drains your confidence is a big step forward."
Moreover, it doesn't hurt to "fake it 'til you make it," Sax said. By telling yourself you are confident and presenting yourself that way, you not only trick your own mind but also persuade others to believe the same.
"When you appear confident, it gives others more confidence in you," Sax said.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor.