What comes to mind when you hear the word insecurity? Do you cringe at the word itself, because talking about insecurity is such a taboo topic? Is there a certain individual who you’d describe as being insecure? Do you view people’s insecurities as weaknesses?
It’s almost too easy to peg the insecurities of others. We hear it all the time, “Oh, he gets defensive about that because he’s insecure.” Comments like this are meant negatively, as if insecurity is some kind of character flaw for that certain individual. But the truth is everyone has insecurities.
Insecurity is a part of human nature.
In his short ebook, The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture, Mark Scullard, Ph.D., reveals that insecurity is a human struggle that affects everyone. In fact, when it comes to the workplace, insecurity slowly erodes the culture. Think of the negative aspects alive in workplaces: avoiding feedback, gossip, cliques, cynicism, territorialism, defensiveness, passive-aggression, hiding mistakes, resisting change, withholding information, false consensus, fear of risk, and pocket votes. Scullard says the root of all of these is insecurity.
“[Insecurity is] not just the passing of self-doubt, but that fundamental conflict each of us has struggled with since the time we had that first sense of self, the core question that takes the basic shape of, “Am I a good, valuable person?”Scullard, M. (2019). The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture. Hoboken, NJ. Wiley & Sons, INC.
Insecurity isn’t an anomaly in our character; it’s a standard.
We view insecurity as weakness. We try to hide from it and pretend it’s not there. In fact, we do this so frequently that it becomes second nature. We’ve gotten good at announcing to the world that “Yes, I know I’m a good person. I know I’m valuable.” So good, actually, that we’ve made talking about insecurity a taboo topic. Because it’s not supposed to be there, right?
But it is there, even though we do our best to ignore it. Insecurity sits at our core, affecting how we interact with others at home and at work. No one comes to work leaving their problems, concerns, joys, and fears at the door. Humans carry those around everywhere we go. This is true not only of our current situations, but also of our past experiences. Both shape who we are and how we perceive the world and our place in it.
Silent insecurity in the workplace leads to dysfunction.
We bring all of our learned experiences and all of our baggage into the workplace. Insecure people working with insecure people creates an environment where people don’t feel valued, trusted, or competent. When people don’t feel valued, trusted, or competent, they engage in behaviors such as gossiping, passive-aggression, withdrawing, and withholding information. Then the cycle continues.
Building trust weakens the power of insecurity.
We know four things:
1. Insecurity affects everyone.
2. Insecurity is a normal part of our humanness.
3. There’s no getting rid of it entirely.
4. Insecurity drains our company cultures.
So, what can we do about it?
“We can encourage trust. That is, we can take steps to significantly increase the level of trust in our cultures.” ~Dr. Mark ScullardScullard, M. (2019). The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture. Hoboken, NJ. Wiley & Sons, INC.
Trust is the foundation to building strong teams and positive cultures. When we trust the people we work with, our insecurities are no longer weaknesses; instead, they become normalcies, because we know and understand that everyone struggles with them. We can be open and honest with each other without fear of rejection, feelings of incompetence, or lack of support. Building trust weakens insecurity by removing the stigma and allowing ourselves to become vulnerable.
Next week we’ll dive into more of Dr. Scullard’s book as we discuss how understanding personality styles can curb insecurities and build trusting relationships.