illustration of two people feeling confident at work and giving one another a high-five

If you’re ready to power-up (no pun intended) your confidence at work, you’re about to drastically improve your performance. HR Dive reports that nearly all workers (98%) say they perform better when they feel confident at work. HR leaders say the trait can generate resilient, productive, and loyal employees. But what exactly is confidence?

According to Merriam-Webster, confidence is, “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or reliance on one’s circumstances.” If you’re eager to tap into your superpowers and build trust with colleagues, it’s time to overcome the barriers to your success. Whether you’ve discovered a skill gap in your discipline, suffered an embarrassing moment, or you’re about to start a new job, you can learn to take charge of your confidence and leave impostor syndrome at the door. 

Confidence comes from self-awareness

When you’re feeling unqualified at work, it’s not only an indication that you lack confidence—it shows you are disconnected from who you are. Deep stuff, huh? 

A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology finds that self-awareness gives you more satisfaction with past decisions, and the confidence to make future decisions. If self-awareness leads to more confidence, then it’s important to look into your values, personal resources, and goals. So, who are you? And what do you want?

Paint a clear picture of yourself to help you act on your needs (and your abilities) with more confidence.

1. To be confident at work, understand your productivity

One reason you don’t feel confident at work could be related to productivity. When you lack confidence, productivity suffers. The inverse is also true: lack of productivity can further impede your confidence

If you’re unsure of how you work best, try this: When you start your workday, pay close attention to when you become distracted, and implement a strategy to refocus. For example, try deep work sessions with playlists that help with concentration. Try the Pomodoro method to break your work sessions into small chunks to reduce fatigue and make large projects more manageable. When you gain control of your workday, you have more power over your circumstances and—by extension—more confidence.

2. Communicate confidence with body language and phrasing

What you say (and how you say it) plays a huge role in how we’re perceived by colleagues. A study by the Queens University of Charlotte reports that 73% of business leaders believe soft skills are more important than job-specific skills. As much as we’d like to lean on our credentials, sometimes these talents don’t translate if they’re not presented with the confidence you need to be heard. 

Let’s take look at an example of how language influences confidence:

Instead of:
“Sorry, just wanted to add that…”
Say this:
“I agree with the ideas you’ve shared. I’d like to add that…”

See the difference? Words such as, ‘just’ or apologizing before you get a chance to share your idea can completely change how your message is received. You may have identified a huge gap in a plan, but the significance of your idea becomes lost in translation. Self-advocacy and directness are skills.

3. Learn to communicate your ideas

If you’re excited about your work, you want to be noticed by those who can help move your career forward. Whether this means a promotion or simply a great reference for a career change, it’s important to learn how to articulate your creative process to the right people. 

Begin by critiquing your idea. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How does this idea impact the team? Is it time-sensitive? 
  • Is your idea a solution to a problem? 
  • Is your idea innovative? 
  • What stakeholders should be involved? 
  • Could your idea affect the company’s processes?

Bring the idea to your manager, but know they are 15-18% more likely to receive your idea if you tailor it to their personality. If you can outline the steps to see your idea through, even better.

4. Say no to colleagues, or let someone else volunteer

Confidence means that you trust yourself to know what’s best for you based on your time, capacity, and abilities. At work, your confidence grows when you flex your boundaries. 

Self-respect is found when you know you’re at capacity or when a task is outside of your realm of expertise. Learn to self-manage your boundaries to gain confidence. It’s easier to set boundaries with your team, and you can make time for your own career development goals. There will be another opportunity to be the colleague that comes to the rescue.

5. Rectify your mistakes with confidence

Yes, it’s important to take responsibility when you’ve made a mistake at work. But don’t draw more attention to the error than it deserves. To take charge of the experience, try these tips:

  • Speak assertively: Speak directly, share what you’re really thinking, and be mindful of others’ boundaries. To become more self-assured in how you engage with colleagues, learn to understand an array of communication styles. This knowledge will help you respectfully and maturely respond to passivity, passive aggression, and aggression. 
  • Reconsider over apologizing: Psychologist and career expert Vijayeta Sinh says apologizing too much can make you appear weak and submissive. Know when you should and should not say you’re sorry to help you deal with roadblocks more confidently. For example, if an error was made and it wasn’t your fault, Sinh recommends simply thanking them for their patience, and moving forward with a solution.

6. Set small and achievable goals

It’s so true, right? Short-term goals are proven to be linked with self-confidence. A study by psychologist Gail Matthews reveals that 33% of people more successfully achieve their goals when they’re written down (compared to those who rely on memory). Hint: Our team has dozens of Trello templates for goal-setting (and crushing) Trello boards to make your dreams a reality. 

To get started, envision yourself a year from now. 

  • Ask yourself what would help you feel more confident. Taking a new course? Starting a side hustle? Getting a mentor? 
  • Next, audit your goals with a SMART goals analysis. List what makes your plan Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This method can inspire more self-awareness, opportunities, and limitations.
  • Input your goals and objectives into a Trello board. Set reminders, tick off your checklist, and feel a sense of accomplishment with every small step.

7. Stay in your lane to focus on your goals

“What’s wrong with me? Am I really cut out for this?” If you find yourself asking self-defeating questions, take a grounding breath and shift your inner narrative toward your goals. In these moments, try to find ways to get curious about your inner self-talk. Probe the discomfort and ask yourself why it’s important to feel confident in specific areas, rather than give in to sweeping statements about your worth. This will help you identify solutions to boost your self-esteem.

When you see a colleague experience success at work, you may wonder if you should follow their lead. However, your career trajectory will always be unique to your own strengths. Is it important to tap into new career ambitions? Absolutely. But if you’re still dedicated to your clearly-defined goals, keep your eyes on your own (also awesome) prize.

8. Find a mentor (or become one yourself)

Work with a professional mentor to increase your confidence in your field. A mentor can help to:

  • Identify the right training opportunities to grow your professional skills.
  • Maintain work-life balance.
  • Encourage you to seek feedback on your work and interpersonal skills.
  • Leverage your experience, interests, and strengths to create your ideal career path.

Finding a mentor requires time, sometimes money, and a willing participant. Ask if there are any mentorship programs at your job or research mentorship programs in your field. You can also ask for support from a colleague you look up to. 

Here’s another idea: Become a mentor. Mentoring someone else can show you how much you’ve learned. And, it can give you the pride and accomplishment that comes when you show a peer how to succeed.

9. Take this bold step to find your confidence with colleagues

If you continue to struggle with confidence at work, initiate a team reflection after the next project. Promote an environment of self-reflection with your team to earn you brownie points for initiative and humanize your team experience. 

Behavioral studies support the idea that comfortability and confidence build during strenuous learning experiences. Have you heard of The Learning Zone Model? Psychologist Lev Vigotsky developed the concept of balancing new stimuli with some comfortability (so you don’t panic!). If vulnerability with colleagues feels too far out of your comfort zone, remember that a little bit of discomfort now can make you feel more confident. 

10. Don’t forget to practice self-compassion

More self-confidence is an act of self-care. When doubt creeps in, use these tips to make an actionable effort toward being more confident at work.

What’s next?

10 tips to be more confident at work