Feeling office-ready? 5 steps to (re) building your workplace confidence

Confidence and effective presence are fundamental to success at work. Learn how to hone yours.


Individual leans against glass wall in an office hallway, looking stressedWe all have a colleague who’s always raring to go. She has something to add to every meeting. She raises her hand first when a challenging new project is up for grabs.

What does she have that so many of us find elusive? It’s called confidence, and it’s a skill that you can learn and hone.

Confidence and effective presence are fundamental to success at work. But they’re fragile. And after two years of depressing headlines, confidence killers – fear, negative self-talk, and anxiety – are skyrocketing.

So, what’s chipping at your confidence?

As millions of us head back to the office, perhaps you’re dreading feeling like the new guy again or the thought of seeing your colleagues unpixellated for the first time. Or you’re worried that the boss who hired you remotely won’t like you in person. Or you’re dreading the daily microaggressions from which remote working provided a break.

These are valid concerns, and there’s not always a quick fix. But buffing up your confidence in your career is essential if you’re to thrive in your career.

Take our five steps to kick-starting your office mojo:

1. Take baby steps out of your comfort zone

We grow from exposure to new challenges, but don’t throw yourself into the deep end. Switch on your camera for online meetings to get used to being seen again before doing it in person. If you struggle to speak up, challenge yourself to say at least one thing. Try to get a word in right at the start and you’ll find it easier to chime in when you do have something pressing to say. It’s OK to feel nervous right now. 7.1% of Americans had social anxiety disorder in the past year, so be gentle with yourself and you’ll get there.

2. Take up space

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy recommends Wonder Woman-style “power posing” (strong, outstretched arms and feet apart) to configure your brain to be more assertive, confident, and comfortable so you can be fully present in the office. Practice in a private place to give yourself a boost right before meetings, presentations, and other set-piece moments to boost your self-confidence in the workplace and build your professional presence.

3. Aim for respect, not to please

Real confidence in the workplace comes from knowing your stuff, not from courting other’s approval. Yet, many of us feel pressured into people-pleasing at work and women are particularly vulnerable. But putting other people’s needs before our own is self-defeating. If you’ve got a big meeting or presentation coming up, take the time and space to practice and iron out any kinks in your delivery. Visualizing successful work moments is another great confidence-booster and will help you command the respect you deserve.

4. Channel your unique, authentic strengths

Trying to be a different version of yourself at work is exhausting for you and denies your employer of the benefits of your unique skill sets. Stop feeling insecure at work and embrace what makes you different – and special. HBR recommends finding your personal stories, experiences, and traits that combine to create your valuable point of view.

5. Use your body language to ‘hack’ feeling confident

Just like that high-energy colleague everyone seems to trust implicitly, we’re more likely to not trust people who exude low confidence. But even if you’re a bag of nerves inside, you can project confidence in the workplace through non-verbal signals. The way you talk. The way you dress. Your posture. Maintain eye contact; breathe deeply (slow breaths from the diaphragm), and lower your tone (a low pitch will make you sound in more control). If you appear confident, you’ll feel confident.

If you still can’t bear the thought of heading back to the office, why not ask for accommodations like continued remote or hybrid working? Chances are, you’ll have a good case if you can prove you’ve been productive virtually so far.

Or it might be that you have a toxic workplace and it’s time for a change. Start with Adecco. We connect candidates like you with great jobs.

Note: If you’re finding it tough to get your confidence back, or are feeling overwhelmed by social anxiety, it’s important to get help. Ask your manager or HR. You can also check out Mental Health America for a wide range of resources. Plus, read our blog article on mental health at work.

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