Think back to the last time you were the newest person on a team. Were you welcomed by everyone with open arms? Did you leave work each day feeling like you had connected with each person on your team? If your experience is like most, the answer is “no”. Now reverse that question and think back to the last time someone new joined YOUR team. How welcoming were you? Did you go out of your way to make the person feel included and supported? Even if you are an extremely warm and inviting person, you can probably think of times you could have done more to include the new employee.
Unfortunately, joining a new work team can feel more like a clique in high school a la “Mean Girls,” than beginning the next step in a career. You might be unsure of who is being real or being fake and prefer to eat lunch by yourself than with others out of fear they are judging you. While this example might be a bit extreme, I am sure we all can think of a time in our adult lives when we felt this way.
So, that leads us to the question: why does this happen? Why do tenured, experienced, and typically caring employees treat new hires poorly? Shouldn’t they be excited to have someone else on their team to help support the workload? Of course they should! But, the answer isn’t always that easy.
Insecurity in the Workplace
One of the major causes of perceived rudeness or incivility toward new employees is existing employees feeling insecure. This may stem from a lack of confidence in their own abilities, or perceive limited resources related to opportunities for promotion. Or, it could be that they feel like they will have to work even harder to keep up with the newer employees – an upheaval to the status quo. Unfortunately, insecurity affects all aspects of our lives and insecure employees are at significantly higher odds of being obese, sleeping less than six hours a day, daily tobacco use, and are nearly five times more likely to have had a serious mental illness than those secure in their roles. 
While the addition of new teammates to an organization is not the only contributing factor to existing employees experiencing a lack of confidence, an article by Forbes suggests that insecurity is the third greatest contributor to employee demotivation.  This lack of confidence can affect the workplace in a variety of ways, including lower performance, increased toxicity amongst employees, and high turnover. A toxic work environment is one of the most difficult to fix; it can sometimes take years to recover from just a few bad eggs.
Therapy for All?
Curing employee insecurities might be a lot simpler than providing weekly trips to a therapist for everybody. If you are aware of the possibility of a “lack of confidence” issue – get to work on fixing the problem as soon as it starts, or better yet – before it starts. Three potential suggestions include: building a team-mindset, providing clear direction, and managing diversity.  All of these suggestions point to building and enforcing a strong and healthy culture. When employees know your company’s definition for success and how it is achieved – and more importantly – sees those values consistently lived each day, insecurity wanes. As we discuss in the first episode of our video series, Coffee with Corvirtus, shared values about how success is achieved eliminate bias and create equal opportunity. This makes building a strong and healthy culture and a sense of team not only good for business, but also beneficial in reducing feelings of discrimination and unfairness. Employees who know the “why” behind your company’s actions, even if they don’t always agree with the decision, are happier, work harder, and stay longer. People who understand and have the opportunity to participate in workplace decisions are more engaged, which then evolves into better customer service and increased profits.
The employee engagement math is simple:
Increasing Confidence Step by Step
Once you’re aware that you need to help improve your employees’ confidence and in turn, overall employee engagement, you’ll need to be intentional to get a return! There are a variety of ways to include your employees in appropriate levels of decision-making, including employee engagement surveys, succession planning, structured interviews, competency mapping, and more. But we know the best course of action is starting with your company’s culture. If you have clearly defined your company’s culture and make all of your decisions (including who you hire) with your values, beliefs, and promises to and from stakeholders in mind, employees will have more confidence when new teammates are added because they will understand the why behind every action.
As you consider the idea of improving your employees’ confidence levels and what steps you’re missing, take an inventory of what your organization is currently providing:
- Clearly defined culture – including promises to and from the team
- Regular Employee Experience Surveys – with clear communication about your actions based on the results
- Succession Planning tools and regular coaching
- Clear performance expectations with regular opportunities for feedback
- Streamlined hiring processes, including: hiring assessments, structured interview guides, and performance dimensions for each role
If you’re missing any or all of these steps, it might be time to review your employee engagement strategies, and we can help.
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 The Physical Effects of Job Insecurity in the Workplace, envolve.com, 08/17
 8 Common Causes of Workplace Demotivation, Forbes.com 01/14
 What are the Benefits of Effective Communication in the Workplace?, 3/18