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The Paradox of Self-Confidence

Understanding the future of work
Understanding the
future of work
Understanding
the future
of work
Authors
Randy Delgado
Associate Partner
Randy thinks beyond the obvious, levaraging his experience as a consultant, brand manager, and a founder of startups.
Andrew Struhs
Senior Manager
Andrew has successfully developed digital marketing, CX, and marketing technology strategies for Fortune 500 companies.
Contributors
Carlo Mirasol
Senior Manager
Christian Knapp
Senior Associate

Over the years, our work has taken us to corporations across the United States and throughout the world. In countless organizations, we can immediately recognize a self-assured individual when we see one. Whether it is their assertive handshake or direct eye contact, an individual with self-confidence is greeted and treated with respect by others. The challenge is that most employees lack the self-confidence required to be successful in the workplace. Our research shows that employees at the junior level and female employees are the most likely to face this challenge.

58%
Over 58% of women in our research showed lowers levels of self-confidence than the average male
2020 PSS Research Study

The challenge is that individuals with low self-confidence, regardless of position or gender, generally seek out information that confirms their own self-belief. This is what theorists call self-verification and is one of the most difficult barriers to optimal performance. More importantly, there are few practical leadership theories that will help individuals improve their self-confidence if they are not willing to improve themselves. The one thing we can do is cultivate a culture of enablement, provide the necessary tools required to improve, and make hard decisions about individuals who cannot get out of their own way.

In Brief

  • Even the most skilled leaders need employees who are willing and able to evolve in order to achieve optimal team performance.
  • The four most important elements of self-confidence are an employee’s tenacity, belief in their own capability, overall outlook on new challenges, and faith in their ability to control the outcome of their efforts.
  • By understanding these individuals components, it is possible to take targeted actions to start building self-confidence across all employees and teams.
  • Our research shows that mid-level management at retailers appear to have a greater level of self-confidence than their senior-level counterparts.

Self-Confidence

Researchers at the University of Chicago found self-confidence to be a greater predictor of entrepreneurship or intrapreneuriship than formal college education. Self-confidence helps great ideas bubble up to the top. It also provides the necessary fuel to see things through to completion against the backdrop of incremental challenges along the way. Self-confidence is a critical ingredient in today's business environment.


Most importantly, we must understand that self-confidence is not really about the individual but about the way they think we see them. The irony is that the employee themselves must want to change in order to start the process. However, if that desire is not met with support then they have little to no chance of reaching their potential.


We generally break down self-confidence into four distinct parts:

Self-Esteem
What it is: How they think about themselves
35%
Baby-Boomers’ average self-esteem score was 35% higher than Gen Z’s, suggesting that self-esteem is tied to the life experiences that age brings.
2020 PSS Research Study
Consideration: How do we develop learning programs for our youngest colleagues that provide meaningful challenges and positive reinforcement while still managing risk?
Outlook
What it is: How they see the future
22%
Individuals in senior-level positions had 22% higher outlook scores compared to those in entry-level position, on average.
2020 PSS Research Study
Consideration: How do we double down on leadership development programs as a way to promote growth within our teams and demonstrate the possibility of forward progress to all team members?
Capability
What it is: Belief in their ability to handle events in their lives and deal successfully with life's challenges.
15%
Employees with the highest levels of education had 15% higher belief in their capabilities compared to those with the lowest levels of education, on average.
2020 PSS Research Study
Consideration: Investing in continuing education programs is not only valuable in strengthening critical skills, but also the feeling of preparedness that exists within teams. Fortunately, today’s digital world has opened a plethora of education options and drastically reduced the amount of investment required.
Control
What it is: Belief in their ability to set and achieve their own destiny
19%
Individuals in senior-level positions had 19% higher control scores compared to those in entry-level position, on average.
2020 PSS Research Study
Consideration: The most successful teams are the ones where everyone not only understands their role, but also how it contributes to the overall objective. Managers and leaders should also take care to avoid the trap of simply assigning tasks and instead focus on the value each task provides.

Identifying these norms in your workplace will be critical to creating a culture of success and building the right DNA within the organization.

The Great Divide

Women

While progress has been made to support women in the workplace, our research shows that there is still a sginificant amount of work ahead. Of the women that participated in our research, only 42% of women had a greater self-confidence score than the average male. The average score for women was also lower than the average for men in each of the four categories. The greatest difference between men in women in our study was their reported levels of self-esteem.

38%
Women were 38% more likely to agree or strongly agree with the statement, “Sometimes when I fail I feel worthless.”
2020 PSS Research Study

While building their self-confidence requires broad support across all four areas, the research suggests that focusing on the self-esteem component first may yield the greatest results.

Retailers Beware

Mid-level managers appear to be the most confident within their organization. They outpaced their senior level colleagues by an average of 17% across all four categories. For many managers, the world is their oyster. We hypothesize that the proximity to the consumer drives up their confidence as they recieve immediate feedback from their actions. At CMG, we are conducting further research to dive into the various drivers of retail mid-management performance.

3x
Mid-level managers were 3 times more likely to agree or strongly agree with the statement, “I am confident I get the success I deserve in life” than other employees
2020 PSS Research Study

Conclusion

While it is difficult to build confidence in the workplace, it is even easier to destroy it. Leaders should find ways to enable their employees to individually work on self-confidence and create a culture conducive to it. Great leadership is best leveraged when employees are mentally prepared to consume the responsibilities we thrust upon them.

Authors
Randy Delgado
Associate Partner
Randy thinks beyond the obvious, levaraging his experience as a consultant, brand manager, and a founder of startups.
Andrew Struhs
Senior Manager
Andrew has successfully developed digital marketing, CX, and marketing technology strategies for Fortune 500 companies.
Contributors
Carlo Mirasol
Senior Manager
Christian Knapp
Senior Associate