by Nikki Owen

How to build and develop self-esteem

Individuals who possess high levels of self-esteem feel comfortable with themselves and are able to be authentic with others in every situation. Understanding what factors impact on self-esteem enables individuals to take control of building and developing a strong sense of self-worth, in themselves and others.

In a work situation, the environment around you will have an enormous effect on either building or eroding your personal self esteem. Sometimes, we can find ourselves carrying on with day-to-day existence in a negative environment without really being aware of what this is doing to us. The first step towards building your own self esteem is to bring into conscious awareness the factors that are either contributing to, or detracting from your efforts.

Below are two lists: one of managerial actions that erode self esteem and the other of actions that build it. As you go through the lists, you will build up a picture that will tell you whether your work environment is enhancing or hampering your efforts. If the environment is positive and encouraging, that’s great. If not, then you need to do some further analysis.

It may simply be that your immediate manager is over critical or directive, rather than the whole organisational culture. In this case, you have options: if you will be moving to another team or department or post soon, it may not matter; perhaps the person is not aware of their negativity and you might need to be more proactive in dealing with them (see Managing Upwards); perhaps you are taking well meant criticism too negatively yourself, in which case it may be worth considering whether everyone else finds this person hypercritical, and/or maybe you need to analyse what is happening in your relationship with this person (see Transactional Analysis and Feedback for some useful ideas). On the other hand, if the entire organisational culture is negative, maybe it is time to plan and carry out your next career move.

In addition, as a manager, you can use these lists to consider whether you are building or eroding self esteem in your team. Bear in mind that how we treat others will also affect our own persona. If you are perceived as negative, you will certainly not come over as charismatic, and your own self esteem will suffer from others’ reactions to you.

You may be a little dubious about the idea of managing a charismatic team, but the actions that build charisma also build competence, originality, high performance and a whole raft of behaviours that could, potentially, carry you and your team to greater heights. And if, within your team, there are some members with the capacity to become charismatic leaders in the fullness of time, just remember that these are extremely useful and interesting people to know and be on good terms with – and exciting!

Managerial actions that erode self-esteem

Whatever you say or do to others also affects you. Every thought and action you have causes a karmic type of reaction around and through you. Therefore, the following actions will impact negatively on you and others, regardless of ‘who’ has done ‘what’ to whom:

  • Giving critical rather than constructive feedback
  • Putting down other people’s ideas and suggestions
  • Wanting everything to be done ‘your way’
  • Allocating projects or responsibilities to others without providing adequate training or resources
  • Coming down hard on mistakes/creating a blame culture
  • Allocating mundane work that falls well below the individual’s capability
  • A consistently directing management style
  • Greater focus on what is wrong rather than what is right
  • Allowing people to feel insignificant and unimportant.

Managerial actions that build self-esteem

If you are a manager and want to ensure that you continually build and develop the self-esteem of the people who work for and with you, the following behaviours can prove to be highly effective:

  • Respect every individual’s point of view
  • Seek first to understand before being understood
  • Use plenty of positive reinforcement and do it with genuine sincerity
  • Encourage others to learn from their mistakes
  • Communicate what you want your people to achieve or do (rather than what you want them to avoid)
  • Create a supportive environment where people can share their concerns
  • When talking to others, give them your full and undivided attention
  • Identify what makes each of your team ‘unique’ (this will help them to feel more significant).