Managing employees with low self-esteem: 3 practical steps for employers

Managing employees with low self-esteem - 3 practical steps for employersLow self-esteem can hugely impact people’s careers, their earnings, their relationships at work, their job satisfaction, and their wellbeing (both physical and mental), but we cannot ignore the impact on their organisations too. Good self-esteem is great for overall employee satisfaction, positive energy in the business, employee engagement and morale, productivity, customer relationships, quality of service/product and even innovation. When we are happy and content, we tend to do good work.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is about confidence in your own worth, being respectful to yourself, feeling confident about your own abilities and limitations. People with high self-esteem feel good about themselves and that feeds through to everyone they interact with and everything that they do.

High self-esteem is what we are seeking, whereas inflated self-esteem is a problem. Those with inflated self-esteem generally view themselves as better than others, seldom listen to others, can belittle those with low self-esteem and tend to underestimate others. Not what we want.

A few facts and figures to put this into perspective

Disclaimer! Not always from academic sources given that this is a prominent social issue, so ‘buyer beware’…

  • Only 20% of British women surveyed said they were happy with how they looked. The country with the best self-esteem (64%) was South Africa (Metro lifestyle)
  • 61% of 10–17-year-olds (girls) in the UK have low self-esteem. 60% of men are not confident in their ability to do our job (a small survey of 2000 with a focus on self-confidence, rather than self-esteem but interesting reading – Gee Hair)
  • 80% of women have low self-esteem
  • 53% believe their self-esteem has reduced as a result of the pandemic (Soocial)
  • The Body Shop identified “self-love” as a crisis issue for men and women around the world. The report found Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and France ranked lowest for self-esteem, or “self-love”, while Australia, Denmark, and the United States ranked highest (Soocial)
  • Self-esteem decreases after age 60 (Psychology Today)

How can employers manage self-esteem issues in the workplace?

A three step approach…

1. Risk assessment

Assessing any risk might inform our decisions about how we manage and support our staff. A risk assessment might be very general, considering your whole employee population, or it might be very specific, considering for example just one or two individuals.

Whilst many with low self-esteem pose no risk at all to their organisations, there will be some who we might deem to be low risk. The risk will often be a result of low assertiveness, low confidence, fear of conflict or challenge etc. Low risk means that they might make some errors but are unlikely to make serious ones (e.g. they might hesitate or fail to challenge errors or decisions, hold back from building the necessary relationships, not step in or speak up when they see bullying etc).

And no doubt there will be a few with low self-esteem who unfortunately pose a medium or high risk, many of these risks arising due to anxieties about stepping in, speaking up, and assertively managing others etc. Consider what might happen in respect of legal exposure if someone doesn’t step in when they see a legal omission or error, and consider the financial risk if errors are not picked up promptly, or the cyber security risk if team members are not managed with clear standards set in respect of cyber security etc.

There will of course be those in both the low and high-risk categories who take personal responsibility for their low self-esteem, working hard to minimise any impact, to develop themselves, their confidence, and their assertiveness. On the other hand, there will be people with no personal responsibility, waiting on their employer to manage the risk and solve their problems. In a nutshell, this is about those who are accountable and responsible and those who view themselves as helpless, with no personal choices or ability to manage their own situation.

2. Productivity assessment

(And assessment of other employee engagement e.g. retention, absence) – aside from risk, it’s also valuable to understand the impact on the organisation as, again, this will inform our decisions about how to manage and support our staff. You might consider using employee survey tools, focus groups, and employee representative groups here as well as turning to software and management information analysis. A positive collaboration to identify challenges and solutions, rather than something the organisation is imposing on others in pursuit of ‘profit’!

Once you have assessed impact in relation to the organisation, we recommend you also take time to assess the impact of low self-esteem on individuals for example in relation to their career development, personal wellbeing, ability to achieve potential, inclusion within the team etc. Conversations about this could take place during management one to one’s, appraisals or otherwise at any other time provided a safe, confidential environment for a sensitive discussion can be found. Using words such as ‘confidence’ or ‘assertiveness’ we think managers will find far easier then beginning conversations around ‘low self-esteem’.

3. Training, support and management

Once both risk and potential impact for both employee and organisation are clear, decisions about the training, support and management of your people can be made.

If you are keen for individuals to be proactive and accountable, then some training or retraining in accountability may be valuable. Equally valuable is identifying those (if you have any) who reject personal accountability. There isn’t much space in most businesses for those who reject personal accountability, so we recommend that these individuals, if you have any, are managed out.

For those who are accountable and who are going to value any support and training you provide here are a few training options you might consider that are either stand alone or could be blended into one course:

  • Assertiveness training
  • Understanding and building resilience
  • Understanding yourself and others (different personalities)
  • Conflict management
  • Emotional intelligence assessment and training
  • Influencing skills
  • Tips and techniques to manage stress and/or anxiety
  • Self-presentation skills
  • Building self confidence (Click here for details on our free course)
  • Managing the wellbeing of staff (for managers only)
  • Having sensitive conversations (managers only)

And in terms of support:

  • A culture across the organisation, led from the top down, of genuine inclusion – everyone matters, everyone is respectful of others, everyone knows that it is our differences that make strong teams.
  • Managers and supervisors trained up so they understand how to coach and support (not rescue or parent) their team members both during and after any training/coaching. This is especially needed when team members are seeking to develop their confidence or self-esteem.
  • Mental health first aiders across the organisation, trained and supported to do their job, and so often useful for signposting employees to where they can get confidential support. Or why not step it up and take the unusual approach of introducing ‘Health First Aiders’? Mental and physical health are so closely linked, so surely it is time for a more holistic approach!

In summary

  1. Check your risk and assess your impact
  2. Move out of the business those who are not interested in self-development, or personal accountability.
  3. Identify how best to roll out training/coaching to support your accountable team members, based on individual need.
  4. Re-assess employee morale, satisfaction following the various training and or support interventions you are able to provide. Re-evaluate productivity, quality, retention etc too.
  5. Review your approach, learn from successes, talk openly and honestly about what has not worked and why that may be, plan for the continued development and growth of your employees.

And finally…

Slowly, slowly, step-by-step it is possible improve self-esteem, develop self-confidence etc. These things take decades, a lifetime even, but every step your employees can take towards greater self-belief, self-respect, a working day relatively free of anxiety means a step for you, the employer, towards greater engagement, loyalty, improved productivity and better overall wellbeing across the organisation.

A summer offer from the team at Jaluch to our clients

We are putting on an open course entirely free of charge to those who would value a full 6 hours focussed on building confidence. Maximum numbers are 15, live online delivery, maximum one delegate per business, willing participants only! (Please don’t force anyone on as this impacts the whole session for others) Who would you like to offer this to in your organisation?

Date: Thursday, August 25th (9.30-4.30) UK time

If you would like to attend, email us with your company name, and the name of the person attending, and we will reserve you a space.

Delegates must be able to join from own laptop, with camera/audio and a quiet space to work from (open plan office is not suitable). We will provide a safe secure space for people to share their challenges and develop their skills.

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