The Common Personality Trait Lots Of People Lack — & Why It Holds Them Back At Work

A lack of confidence at work could really hold you back.

Confident woman walking to work Evgeny Atamanenko / —

A lack of confidence at work significantly affects your performance and thus your career trajectory, so it's critical that when you spot it, you address it quickly.

What does it mean to be confident in the workplace?

Confidence at work has two components: a reflection of self and of others.

Confidence is the feeling of being self-assured about your own abilities and qualities. Confidence in someone else is the feeling that you can rely on and trust that person. For example, being confident that your boss will support your decisions.


Both definitions are relevant because a lack of either can undermine your attitude, performance and, by extension, your ability to advance your career. However, being confident at work begins with self-assuredness.

A lack of confidence is common among workers.

Lack of workplace confidence is actually quite common. According to one 2019 study, 79 percent of women and 62 percent of men regularly feel a lack of confidence at work.


The problem can be temporary or situational (e.g., presents only in certain situations) or full-blown imposter syndrome which results in chronic and multidimensional low self-esteem and self-worth.

In fact, a 2020 KPMG LLP study estimates that 75 percent of U.S. female executives suffer from the stress of overcoming imposter syndrome at one time or another. Given statistics such as these, it's worth taking a moment to assess if a lack of self-confidence could be holding you back.

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7 behaviors that indicate a lack of confidence at work is holding you back.

A lack of confidence can present itself in a number of different ways, both emotionally and behaviorally. Furthermore, you might not readily consider your feelings and actions to be signs of a lack of confidence.


Try to notice if you exhibit these seven common behaviors associated with low self-esteem or self-worth. Also, reflect on the emotions and beliefs associated with them.

1. You compare yourself with others.

You frequently compare yourself to and model yourself after others. And, in doing so, you neglect and/or devalue your personal perspective as well as the development of your own unique strengths and skills.

RELATED: 4 Powerful (And Free!) Ways To Boost Your Self-Esteem In 24 Hours

2. You're ashamed to communicate.

Hesitate to voice your opinion or make suggestions for fear you'll appear foolish, incompetent, or inexperienced.

3. You're too dependent on external validation.

Require frequent encouragement and acknowledgment to orient you or validate the work you perform.


RELATED: Why Women Don't Succeed As Much As Men At Their Jobs

4. You hesitate to take on new responsibilities.

Avoid certain key responsibilities tied to professional advancement. Do you do this because you question your ability to successfully fulfill these responsibilities?

5. You are afraid to make decisions.

Procrastinate because you regularly have difficulties deciding on the appropriate tact to take. Alternatively, or in addition, you might worry about making a mistake or failing altogether.

RELATED: 21 Ways To Build Self-Esteem & Uplift Your Confidence

6. You suffer from 'analysis paralysis.'

Have difficulty meeting deadlines because you compulsively scrutinize the quality of your work and make endless revisions.


7. You find it difficult to evaluate others and their work.

Dread giving or receiving feedback, mentoring others, or managing performance direct reports.

Any one of these behaviors could be sufficient to hold you back depending on the job and circumstances. You may not be marginalized, overlooked for promotion, demoted, or fired for possessing these behaviors, but almost certainly they will diminish your productivity and performance.

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Factors that can undermine your confidence at work.

It's possible that your assessment of yourself and your competency is influenced by your work environment.


First, there's a lack of self-confidence and then there's a lack of confidence in your supervisors and coworkers.

For example, it's your experience that your superiors regularly fail to act upon or even listen to what you say. Odds are that this kills your confidence because you believe what you do or say won't be noticed or appreciated.

Perhaps your actions could arouse ire or disdain from your supervisor or other superiors. Obviously, sentiments such as these could dampen anyone's initiative and self-confidence.


Second, you might have relationships that are so disagreeable and intolerable they taint your overall work experience. This can ruin your attitude toward yourself, your job, and/or your profession.

Stressful and arduous work relationships can challenge your focus, performance, and personal assessment. This can be true even when your core competencies are more than adequate. You might begin to wonder if it's your fault or attributable to the environment.

Identifying and sorting out these types of issues is a critical part of your assessment of whether your confidence is holding you back in your career. It may be time to change jobs and employers, but not because you're incompetent in some way.

RELATED: 7 Simple Ways To Boost Your Self-Confidence And Feel Better


Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D., ACC is a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) leadership coach and a certified Martha Beck life coach. For more information, contact her or visit her website.