In this era of positive thinking, self-motivation, and independence, while we understand the opposite to that to be marked insecurity, we can be quick to gloss over what insecurity is and does, especially in some type of sustained fashion. We also don’t consider what it does en masse.
Today, we’re not going to gloss over. Insecurity undermines and it undermines completely. It needs to be stopped and here’s why.
1. Insecure people don’t just hurt themselves.
It’s very easy to say “Jim is insecure about his abilities” or “Mary lacks confidence and so she won’t get promoted”. Those statements, however, don’t acknowledge that Jim and Mary, while individually impacted by this state, also can impact their teams, their departments, and their organisations.
Each person has a role – whether great or small – and the impact of how they fulfill, or don’t fulfill, that role will be felt in a ripple effect. It is the business of every team member, of every manager, of ever person in an organisation to make sure that each individual person is engaged, secure, and confident on a regular basis; we can’t ignore those who sit on the boundaries or sink under the surface. It eventually will catch up.
2. Insecurity spreads.
Believe it or not, this is catching. A negative person can bring down team spirit and morale, and an insecure person can do the same – and it’s not because they spread the overt markers of anxiety or timidity. It’s more subversive than that because insecurity can be driven by different things.
If you work a company that is constantly laying off people – and too many of us are in that position right now – every time an unfamiliar face walks down the hallway, you can flinch. The workload is heavier and the hands are less; you get stressed and start burning out.
There are two reactions to this: you either buckle down and keep your head down (do all you can to keep your job and stop taking risks, new challenges, teaching, etc.) or you become vocal and argumentative (it doesn’t matter anymore to play along, play by the rules, etc.)
Both of these, at extremes, can be spreading, negative, and destructive reactions and behaviors. They change the setpoint for how work should be done.
I’ve seen cases where people do the following actions on a regular basis:
- Nastygram emails – Naked, public, “full-frontal” personal attacks or sarcastic rejoinders, snippery, etc.
- Refusals to do as requested or to do assigned work – The “I don’t feel like its” of the world or the “I disagree and so won’t do this” regardless of the larger impact on a department or company
- Overuse of the “cc:” field – Everything is escalated, nothing is carried on at a person-to-person basis, it reduces personal accountability and increases inertia in analysis and decision-making
Now, you personally may be a holdout in opposition to the above behaviors – but how long before you get pulled down or get fed up? It doesn’t take nearly as long as you think it does.
3. An insecure culture is an unproductive one.
So we had a few “beaten” apples that have now spread to a basket or two of “beaten” apples and all of a sudden, people are more concerned with CYA, personal vendettas, and hunkering down than they are with:
- Getting work done right
- “Moving the needle” (sorry to resort to consultantspeak, but it’s a useful one) by doing work better in a more efficient fashion
- Upholding the company values and ethics
Insecurity undermines productivity in the most insidious and hard-to-fix fashions ever because it goes right to culture. The success that an “insecure culture” promotes is one that is based on self-protective motivations, and in our current modern world, both economic and social, that’s the exact opposite of what we need.
Every new person that comes into this environment will quickly learn what endears them to coworkers – they will learn the markers for “success” and if they want to stay, they’ll align to them; or they won’t stay and you’ll have lost out on fresh new talent, fresh perspectives, and fresh drive and motivation.
If your team, department, division, or company is suffering from the above behaviors, maybe it’s time to start digging into the “undercover” markers of the culture – and start looking at individuals and find out what they’re projecting.
Insecurity is still a personal thing to be solved: it comes from someone’s perspective on their external world and their place in it. But maybe it’s time to raise the alarm and don’t let anyone hit the snooze button. A wake up call is definitely in order.
Everyone’s success depends on it.