TopIC Banner - The C word. Building confidence in the workplace
1st Jan 2019
3 Min Read

The C word. Building confidence in the workplace

Rachel Thornton
Rachel Thornton
Culture & Insights

Confidence makes us more productive, helps us deliver projects, and inspires trust. So how can organisations build it into the workplace?

Team GB’s impressive gold-medal haul at the Rio Olympics delighted many Brits. We reached second place overall in the medals table, ahead of China. And there was another gold rush in the Paralympics.

Behind great sporting success is careful mental preparation. For the 2012 London Olympics, Team GB’s cycling team had the help of Dr Steve Peters, author of The Chimp Paradox.

His job was to turn the team into champs. At the heart of his strategy was a focus on helping athletes settle down their ‘irrational inner chimp’ – the voice of fear, doubt and anxiety; the voice that maybe tells us we can’t, that we’ll fail, that we’re just not good enough.

This ‘chimp’ voice is much stronger than what Peters posits as our rational brains. But it can be reined in, if we learn how. For the Olympic cyclists, their inner chimps were haunted by times when they just didn’t rise to the occasion.

Confidence and productivity

Athletes aren’t unique in this respect. Using Peters’ paradigm, we’ve all got an inner chimp to settle down. It’s a skill we all need to learn – especially to boost confidence in the workplace.

Having confidence is believing we can achieve a goal. When we have a lot of it, we dive right into a task without our inner critic causing us to hesitate. We trust ourselves.

But when our confidence dips, we question ourselves. “Do I really get this task?” “What if I mess this up?” “So-and-so would do this much better.” We perhaps start to feel like an imposter at work.

According to Gallup, confidence makes employees more productive. Like those Olympic athletes, we all need confidence to deliver at work. Tasks naturally take longer if we question ourselves.

Shifting responsibility for boosting confidence

Many online blogs like lifehack offer tips on how to boost their own confidence, through mantras, self-talk and relaxation. Confidence is often presented as a skill we should work on in our own time.

Perhaps more organisations should offer confidence-building as an essential part of employees’ learning and development. Instead of just making it a desirable ingredient for leadership, it should be a vital component of a healthy workplace culture.

Confidence not only helps us work better, it inspires trust. According to, productivity rises in line with confidence levels. Confident colleagues are also less likely to quit.

So perhaps it’s time for organisations to start talking about the C-word a little more. And not just for the benefit of senior leaders, but for everyone.

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