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6 Tips on How to Manage an Insecure Employee

6 Tips on How to Manage an Insecure Employee

Having an insecure employee in your team can drain both your and your employees’ energy. Significantly when the employee insecurity slows him down in his tasks, and due to that, he is constantly seeking your support to get confirmation if he is on the right track. At the same time, it is also difficult to evaluate, coach, and develop an insecure employee.

This is because, according to Ethan Burris, an associate professor at McComb’s School of Business in Texas, insecure employees are so preoccupied with how they appear to others that they do not seek critical feedback they receive. They do not ask for help and take feedback as criticism. And that makes it difficult for insecure employees to develop. At the same time, their insecurity also robs the organization of their knowledge and experience because they do not dare to bid with ideas and opinions.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Mary Shapiro, a professor at Simmons College School of Management in Boston, gives six tips on what you can do to provide an insecure employee self-confidence:

1. Reflect

Start by reflecting on why and what makes you think an employee is insecure. For example, is it because the employee is speaking in a low voice? is it because he is never challenging what you say, Or because he is always seeking confirmation?

Be careful about concluding. What you perceive as a sign of insecurity can be something completely different. It can also be due to differences in personalities.

It would help if you also thought about why your perception of the employee’s insecurity is a problem. For example, does it affect the employee’s results or the collaboration with colleagues?

It would help if you were clear on what problem you are trying to solve before coming up with a solution.

2. Be Honest

You do not have to be a psychologist and find the underlying explanations for the employee’s insecurity. But you are obligated to take action when you experience behavior that harms the team.

Suppose the employee’s insecurity is expressed by him becoming defensive when he acts with his colleagues. In that case, you should address him and say, for example: “When we held a status meeting yesterday, you went in defensive mode and rejected input from your colleagues. It resulted in losing input from others in the meeting, and it affected our ability to make the right decisions.”

3. Build Trust

It takes time to give an employee faith in themselves. Trust is essential here, and you need to spend time and energy building a trusting relationship between you and the employee. Please get to know the employee better by finding out who he is and what he likes to do when not working. Be supportive and optimistic. Make it clear to the employee that you want the best for him and that you are on his side.

4. Be Patient

Making the employee believe more in themselves in a work context is not something you can delegate. It takes your time and patience. Especially in the beginning, the employee will have many questions all the time. It is, therefore, an excellent idea to present specific projects that the employee can practice on. Explain to the employee that you expect that he will have to work more independently and make some decisions on his own in the future.

5. Give Specific Feedback

To increase the employee’s belief in themselves at work, you need to create opportunities for success and provide feedback. It is not enough to say, “Good job.” It would be best if you were specific in your feedback. In addition, you must constantly fill up the employee with things that he is good at. For example: “Let me remind you how good you were the last time you gave a presentation to the team. You had practiced it through, and you were well prepared.”

You need to help the employee use his strengths and remind him where he excelled and felt competent. Accurate and detailed compliments, when given sincerely, can help build your employee’s self-esteem.

6. Teaming Up

You can advantageously connect your insecure employee with a colleague with whom the employee can spar. You can also consider whether your unsure employee should mentor a colleague on a task that the uncertain employee has just completed.

When Nothing Works

It will take time before you see the results of your efforts, and there is also a risk that it will not work. And then you have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the time. There can be a profound cause of employee insecurity that you can not do anything about.


In summary, here are the lists of things which are suitable to do and things which you should not do.

Good to do

  • Boost your employee’s faith in themselves by giving concrete feedback on what they do well
  • Build trust by showing employees that you want what is best for them and that you are on their side.
  • Team up the insecure employee with a colleague that he can spar with or offer the uncertain employee to mentor a colleague

Do not do

  • Conclude. What you perceive as insecurity may be a personality trait or simply that you are different.
  • Be vague. Make sure the employee understands what you expect, how much time he has for a task, and so on.
  • Recognize that it will not be possible to help everyone get rid of their insecurities.

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