Confronting Insecurity: Addressing the Elephant in the Office

Insecurity. It’s not new - yet seems to be having a new moment. It's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, yet it looms over every aspect of our professional lives. We may not always see it in others, but we certainly feel its presence within ourselves. It's a silent struggle that affects us all, yet many are reluctant to admit it.

While most of my clients won’t want to admit it - almost every engagement covers some form of insecurity. Whether it’s the executive presence they desire, or the “imposter syndrome” or “inner saboteur” buzzwords. These forms of insecurity are often shrouded in silence, hidden beneath a facade of confidence and competence. But the reality is that many of us are losing the balance of understanding our value - and with it a realistic view of what we are capable of and how it lands in the workplace and among others.

If we take a closer look at the challenges we face in the workplace, we'll find that many of them stem from our interactions with others. It's not failure itself that we fear, but rather the judgment and scrutiny of our peers. We're not necessarily afraid to speak in public if we're well-versed in the topic, but it's the fear of how we'll be perceived by our audience that holds us back.

The root causes of insecurity are vast and varied. From the rapid pace of technological advancements to societal shifts that leave us feeling adrift, the sources of our insecurity are as diverse as they are complex. And while we often think of insecurity within the context of work, its effects permeate every aspect of our lives – from our relationships at home to our interactions within our communities.

One of the key contributors to workplace insecurity is the lack of social feedback. In a traditional office setting, we receive constant cues and signals from our colleagues that help us gauge how we're perceived. But in a remote work environment, where face-to-face interactions are limited, we're left isolated; devoid of the feedback that grounds us and keeps us connected to reality.

This isolation breeds a newer form of insecurity known as fantasized talent (credit to Hogan assessments for the term) – an inflated perception of our own abilities that's not grounded in reality. Working from home exacerbates this phenomenon, as we're isolated from the feedback mechanisms that help keep our egos in check. Without the accountability and performance visibility that come with traditional office settings, we're left to our own devices, free to indulge in our fantasies of grandeur without fear of repercussion.

But insecurity isn't just a solo endeavor – it's a shared experience that manifests in the behaviors of those around us. From seeking constant validation to avoiding challenges out of fear, the signs of insecurity are often subtle but pervasive. And while it's easy to spot these behaviors in others, it's often much harder to recognize them within ourselves.

Internally, we're locked in a constant battle with our own self-view, plagued by feelings of self-doubt. We compare ourselves incessantly to others, measuring our worth against an ever-shifting yardstick of success.

But what if we shifted our perspective? What if we approached every work event with the understanding that everyone else is just as insecure as we are? How would our behavior change if we saw each interaction as an opportunity to make someone else feel more comfortable, rather than a chance to assert our dominance?

Creating a culture of acceptance and understanding starts with each and every one of us. It's about recognizing that we're all in this together – that beneath the veneer of confidence lies a shared vulnerability that unites us all. So let's lose the judgment, embrace our insecurities, and create a workplace where everyone can be their authentic selves. After all, isn't that the kind of workplace we all want to be a part of?

Related: The Desperate Need for Simplicity