Managing Insecurity at Work

Perhaps the most understated, least talked about topics of professional life – insecurity is one of the most detrimental attributes that can overturn possibilities for even the most potent resources.Managing Insecurity at Work
Despite the fact that we continually deny its existence (myself included), our constant fear of ‘losing what we have’ to someone else, leads to an ongoing sense of insecurity (professional or otherwise), which can itself lead to shortening an otherwise rewarding employment experience.
HR managers try and placate such developments through internal HR processes, counseling, appraisals and various other management methods for handling employee psyche.
However, one cannot help but feel that as long as conflicts of interest exist (which will always be the case), there will always be room for a sense of insecurity within an organization for every individual, from a blue collar peon to a CEO.
The Question – In your opinion, what are the root causes of insecurity, and how do you address them, both at the individual/organization level? How can we make sure that conflicts of interest are handled amicably and constructively, without the least collateral damage – both to the business, and each individual’s self respect.
Please state your opinions, with rationale. Shall share my thoughts on the subject as a clarification later. Feedback appreciated, as always.
In my honest opinion, I believe that the first step towards handling ones insecurities personally, professionally or otherwise, is to admit their existence. Its no use saying ‘it doesn’t matter to me’ when it DOES matter. One should be straight forward, say what’s on their mind in a constructive manner, being as impartial as possible.
Secondly, one should never overestimate oneself, or be afraid to lose something that is not yours to keep in the first place. An organizational title is, in principle, a duty assigned to you, which belongs to the best person suited for the job. With the passage of time, that person may or may NOT be you, so one should not have any reservations in accepting facts.
One should try and remove ones own insecurity by being the very best at what we do, everyday. If there’s no one better for the job, then you have nothing to worry about. The trick towards a progressive yet contented career path, is not to fear loss in any of its forms, self-analysis, and competing only against one competitor – yourself.
As master Yoda once said, “If you fear losing something you love, you must learn to let go of it yourself, before it is taken away from you. If it is truly yours, it will stay where it belongs.”


  • Z –
    It is my opinion that this “insecurity” at the individual and organization level is embedded in our lives because it is based upon a global foundation of self-preservation controlled by people in power positions; if that be a manager or director of a business or a mother or father of a family.
    There are events out of your control, if it be that you are a public service worker, corporate manager, or self-employed. ‘We’ all know that nothing is curtain. But adding to this, the insecurity is here because there is no trust.
    Corporate leaders are self-serving. Very seldom will you find a manager or director that actually cares (truly) about their employees. I know the difference and have worked for some truly caring people.
    It’s about trust Z – and there isn’t much of it left in this world. But hey, that’s how the world works —- save your company $6 million dollars one day; get laid-off the next.

  • From a corporate perspective, there are really three forms of insecurity. Those based on misunderstandings or things the company can correct and clarify are the ones that should have the most attention. The second is things entirely outside the business though the company can reach out to employees in times of difficulty and help. A death in the family, health issues are examples. The third kind is insecurity that comes from dishonesty, placing personal gain ahead of the organization, deception. This need not be illegal but can be consciously at cross purposes to the organizational goals.
    Managers should always review the message and be sure it is understood, actualized and everyone knows what their part is. What I call “Hoo rah” or cheer leading that does not have an actionable element for the team can be empty, a bit of sugar with digestive consequences.
    Helping an employee in need out is very valuable. It builds trust. Other employees see this and understand that their lot in life is more secure. It retains employees and gives them a reason to stick out lean times. As with all business such an investment should be measured for benefit but the benefits, if analysis is complete, are enormous. People work better when they feel better. Nothing else says “Team” than this.
    Where someone is going at cross purposes to the companies goals and especially where this is perceived by the team, they are then going against the team as people. The company must manage this because it is demoralizing. “Why doesn’t someone do something?” It then leads to gossip, out of band discussions, distrust, fear and anxiety that there is something still more than what little is known. Management must take steps.
    All of this has to do with clarity and communications. There is also sometimes a need to say, “We don’t yet have an answer but we are looking at it.” It is very useful to assign tasks in gaining the answer, it then doesn’t feel out of control. Listen to suggestions if you don’t know and provide feedback for those suggestions.
    Speak Clearly, Listen fully, communicate.

  • Oh dear! Insecurity at work is usually quite rare. The simple reason is that people who are insecure should be picked out at the job/role Interview stage if not beforehand at the paper sift of their CV. If someone has become insecure one should examine their department managers for signs of bullying, or simply bad management practices.
    Zohaib, your use of the word ‘peon’ indicates a lack of respect for people and I wonder if this contributes to insecurity within the Company?
    Address insecurity with good all inclusive team building exercises. Make sure department heads are fully briefed beforehand as to why these exercises are taking place. Get them ‘on-board’.

  • Z-
    My observation is that those that acted tough at work were the insecure ones. Each person has a certain amount of insecurity, whether it is about our skills, abilities, appearance, or the future of our job. Bullies are probably the most insecure people trying to make themselves feel better by picking on others. These are uncertain times in many organizations as in the world in general.
    How do you address insecurity? Work and play nicely! Don’t tolerate stealing (of work, credit, ideas, etc), bullying, or other bad behavior. Nip the nonsense.

  • I imagine it has a lot to do with the culture of “everybody is replaceable”…gone are the days of job security and along with that has come a sense of insecurity.
    In days past, when an employee was rewarded by raises and bonuses, it meant they were valued and in good standing. It instilled a sense of security within those employees. Now, particularly in the current economy, it seems that the more money you make, the more likely that you’ll be the first to go when job cuts come around (after all, it’s all about the “bottom line” in the corporate world now isn’t it).
    With ever increasing number of students graduating from college each year with shiney new diplomas and high hopes, willing to take half or even a quarter of what some executives are making to do the same job (albeit, with much less experience and knowledge), job security has become a thing of the past and insecurity has taken its place indefinately.

  • root causes of insecurity.
    An emotional need isn’t getting met in some form or manner. That need causes a person to act out in different ways, to try and get that need met.
    How to handle it. Teach the person how to be aware of his/her internal state and be able to recognize when s/he is feeling insecure, as well as what is triggering that insecurity. Teach constructive, nonviolent communication skills that help a person explain what is needed in a way that doesn’t hurt others.

  • I like Taylor Ellwood’s response. So little is done about employees emotions at work, we expect everyone to be drones and deal with it. We should be more aware and have a response to handle the emotions as the arise. Not doing so will only cause more problems.
    IMO, all senses of security are false. Nothing is forever and nothing is full proof. If someone wants to break into your house no amount of alarm or numbers of dogs will keep them out. They will, however, control how many criminals are willing to break in. If you look at your career as your house and your skills and offerings as your alarms and dogs than you should work to reduce your chances of being broken into.
    In a more direct manner of speak; manage your career and not your job. People compromise their morals and their needs for money, this is akin to prostitution. If you have a good emergency fund and live within your means you won’t have to do this. You will be able to manage your career and get inline with you values. When this happens you find happiness, and isn’t that the true measure of success?

  • There are a few layers to this question, but I will address a specific layer instead:
    Insecurity is fueled through individual experience, group experience, as well as perceived and real “norms”. The “norms” I discuss are interlinked to what people perceive are risks and the extent of that perceived risk versus the “actual risk”.
    When evaluating the controls a company should use to combat insecurity, one must evaluate the perceived versus real risk involved.
    If you look at the risk involved with projects, controlling personal data, day to day operations, fraud, etc. and evaluate the perceived risk apparent within the institution with respect to these factors, you can get an idea of how “insecure” your workforce is. If you map that out (risk mapping) those variables and then contrast it with actual risk, you can work on controlling the areas where insecurity is most disproportionate to actual risk and then focus your resources on those most critical areas.
    By using this approach, I believe you can minimize resources used (such as capital), combat the most troubling variables, and keep everyone a bit more at ease.

  • Zohaib,
    Perhaps it’s your choice of words – “insecurity”. Quite frankly I don’t see people feeling insecure as much as “vulnerable”. Most professionals are secure in the position or views but many feel vulnerable if they act them. Vulnerability comes from authority figures discouraging you to object to their views. You are vulnerable if you are scared to say you mind for fear of repercussions.
    The way to cure these problems is for your organization’s leaders to prove to you that they will not “hurt” you or your career if you offer an opposing opinion.
    By the way, that’s what you’re getting paid to do! So stop being “insecure” and speak your mind!

  • I once saw a notice on the wall of a training provider:-
    There is no such thing as job security
    You have a responsibility to ensure that you have the skills and experience that make you marketable
    I’ve stuck with that and have found it a great safety net – when you know that you’re marketable you don’t worry so much about losing your current job because you’re confident that you’ll find something else.

  • The nature of business (like life) is uncertainty. Uncertainty creates insecurity. Insecurity causes fear. In tough times business losses are more prevalent; and during tough times these losses typically are out of balance with gains. So the underlying uncertainty of business becomes elevated. A magnifier of this insecurity / fear is the sense of lack of control – that in and of itself translates to a feeling of helplessness.
    The antithesis of uncertainty is certainty. Organizational attitude / psyche are the accountability of leadership – not HR. Line leadership have the authority (the power of facts) to communicate and eliminate to a greater extent the uncertainties with the facts. Passing this off to the HR function is abdication not delegation.
    Placating connotes manipulation – which may or may not be the executive decision. People are not stupid, although behind the closed doors of a conference room people making the decisions on what to communicate can easily convince themselves of. People know when they are being played.
    Communication is the only answer. Uncertainty can never be eliminated – but it can be minimized and people can have the matrix of facts where they clearly see how they fit in an organization and the importance of what they are doing in moving forward down the path to a desired future (from the shop floor to the CEO).
    At a personal level the sense of insecurity has its roots in the degrees of luxury (loss or gain) that we surround ourselves with. Bottom-line, the dread you refer to is only about money. Our lives aren’t at stake. No one is going to die. So the risks we face in our business lives have no horrific downsides. There will always be risk (chance for “gain” but also a chance for “loss”). But risk is the salt of our careers. Without it, how bland would are working lives be??

  • Hi Zohaib,
    I feel the most important root cause of insecurity is the feeling that an individual will no longer be needed by the organisation as the other person would be able to do a better job.
    This feeling would be lot more stronger if an individual has been in the same job for a very long time.
    The best way to address this issue is to ensure the employees get regular training and are kept updated with the new technology. This would give employees more confidence in themselves and the feeling that they might become unemployed would reduce.
    A larger organisation should try and ensure employees keep rotating thier jobs on a regular basis within the firm. For instance, employees should be encouraged to change their jobs in an organisation every 3-4 years. This will help emploees know the organisation better, there will be less chances of only one person knowing what the job is about and people will be more motivated to share knowledge.

  • Zohaib —
    As long as there is at-will employment there will be insecurity. As long as there is the possibility that you will be met at the door by a security guard instead of the receptionist there will be insecurity. As long as there is only one apple for two donkeys there will be insecurity.
    Everybody loses eventually. Loss is the only thing that can be counted on in this world. You will spend far more time with it than with fleeting victory, so don’t be afraid. Embrace it. Loss teaches. Loss strenghthens. Success only softens.
    I believe baseball is the greatest game ever invented because it teaches you that you can win every personal challenge you are presented and still lose.
    Batter up!

  • Insecurity is viewed in so many aspects however the most latent is seen in the inceased job turnover in an organisation. Human resouse managers should be very keen when they see many people resign. Its a communication that they are not secure of their jobs tomorrow,rather than wait for the supervisor’s gilton they seek for safe haven.
    This calls for routine on job counselling, appraisals and motivational parties

  • Wow! You have quite a collection of great answers.
    Here’s my opinion:
    Insecurity definition: feeling unsafe (according to Webster)
    The root cause of feeling unsafe is really not from anything external, but only comes from your internal thoughts and in many cases false beliefs that you have about yourself. These false beliefs may have come into play because of something that has happened in the past, or because someone significant in your life has told you something and you chose to believe it. The belief comes from any number of sources. The important thing is that you are really in control of what you choose to believe.
    The only thing you truly have control over is yourself. If you are the best you can be, you’ve done the best you can. Always be your authentic self.
    Whether you exist at one company or in one job or another is sometimes out of your control. Whether you are authentic and true to yourself is totally in your control and that should never make you feel unsafe. If you choose to believe that, you will always land on your feet no matter what external events influence you and thus feel secure no matter what.

  • If you are insecure about your position at work it is a flag that you either do not belong there(how did you get there to beginwith?) or that you have been promoted into your incompetence.
    Either way if you can self recognize your insecurity you have a head start. If it stems from a weakness you have, find someone with that strength to work with you. If the insecurity is from a lack of subject knowledge then you should be taking courses to cure this.
    The hardest part of having an insecurity in work is to make it public, that is to admit it openly either to your manager or HR, for fear of repercussions.
    If they can see your potential they will work with you to reduce or eliminate your insecurity. If they do not I would look for a new position as your days are probably numbered.
    I have read The Secret and it basicly says that the universe will give you what you ask for. If your fear or insecurity is loosing your position, then the universe will make it happen. After all that is what you have asked for.
    We all need to perform a self assessment from time to time. It helps realign our values, ethics and morals and to take stock in who we are and what we want. It helps us realize our insecurities and to act on them before they become a problem.
    Our minds are our most powerful tool and it will perform exactly as we command it. So if we stay positive the mind will react positively, but if we become negative the mind can be very destructive even catastrophic.
    Now knowing this you should make a point to be positive everyday, banish negative thoughts and be grateful for what you have.

  • Hi Zohaib, this is one of the most interesting questions that I have seen on this ite for such long time and the array of answers have really been first class. It is pretty obvious that many people have very different views on what insecurity is, how it manifests itself and hwo to deal with it.
    I am not going to try and fully answer what is a very complex subject which I suspect manifests itself in many different scenarios. What I wanted to do was mention some initial thoughts I had. Firstly, insecurity can take many different shapes and forms and the ramifications of someone’s behaviour can affect many people within an organisation, the p/l tghrough bad or incorrect decisions not mention morale etc. Insecurity is not only a junior person who may be starting for the first time, or a mid level person who has picked up a promotion but maybe doesn’t feel they deserved it, are up to it or is what they really want to do, or perhaps the mid to senior elvel manager who hires or promotes someone to do a role that won’t show the manager up in. I think the most interesting point I read here was made by someone who discussed the role that emotion plays in a company or business and despite what people may say or believe, I really do think that this extremely interesting aspect of business is probably not understood or planned for enough. But a great question and some really fascinating responses. cheers

  • Telling self that whatever happens…happens for the best…and also if not good…it still had to happen….so take it as Destiny….

  • Hi Zohaib,
    Have you had any discussions/debates with your Boss or your Peer Group (who could be close to Management) recently? 🙂 (Just a Wild Guess).
    Insecurity in my opinion creeps in when we @ our work place venture beyond work. In fact it may sometimes even be there because your Boss or some one in the management does not want you to be there (and that you get to know of this). Also it could be because of jealosy (as some one in this forum has already stated), etc etc.
    @ Work Place, I strongly recommend to concentrate 100% + in your work, contributing to others who may need your support/guidance/ be a performer, have the fire in the belly to punce on any new opportunity/challange being thrown @ your good self, think positive about the organization that you are working for and every step/decision you take should be well introspected in terms of the fact that it should be in favor/sync/support of the value system, integrity of your organization – and thy shall never be insecure.
    Some one once said Never Love Your Company, As The Company Might Stop Loving You..and I Contradict this!
    In my opinion, love the organization and contribute towards its growth (implies your growth in turn) till such time that you feel stagnated in terms of learning/moolah (though this can always be discussed and honoured if the organization is truly professional and considers you as a potential resource) and if you ever reach that saturation, I beleive its time to move on.
    In case you (or any other person) differ with me on any one of the points mentioned above – kindly go ahead and express and we could have a healthy debate. I may learn something out of it as, though i have been an entrepreneur for a while, i have kept myself away from HR related activities, which indeed (if improved) helps me groom myself for future challanges in life and profession.
    BR/Rohit Wangnoo

  • The masters know that we create our own reality by our thoughts and how we think. Living in fear and insecurity tends to have you focused on all the bad things that could happen and like the self fulfilling prophecy, bad things happen. When the disciplined mind rejects those thoughts and focuses on the good things that could happen or that you are striving for, you are more positive and draw more good things into your life. What you focus on tends to expand. Once you realize the only person you can control is yourself, it is easier to let go of what you cannot control. A good question to ask yourself is – “What am I thinking?” and refocus if you find yourself falling into the trap of living in fear. FEAR- False Evidence Appearing Real

  • Darrell Z. DiZoglio

    Hi Zohiab,
    Interesting question. First of all, the best way to manage insecurity that I know of is to focus on all your valuable contributions and accomplishments. There is an old saying that the energy flows where the attention flows. So keep your attention on the positive verses the negative. In my mind, the root cause of insecurity is dwelling on past failures, present failures or most often lack of faith in your higher power.
    “Fear is the little darkroom where negatives are developed.”
    Conflict resolution is easier if you have a mediator who is unbiased. It helps to be reminded that you are all pulling on the same rope within the company. So with that in mind, try thinking about what your boss or CEO is thinking to help mitagate the conflict. Focus on how can we resolve this so we can get back to our mission at hand. The folks in HR are usually experts at problem resolution and understand the need for neutrality too.
    Beyond that, take your focus off all those problems and start thinking of all that you can do through Christ who strengthens you. By focusing on your divine source and acknowledging that the outcome is in more far capable hands than yours, you will immediately start to feel relief from your burdens. If not, strengthen your faith. Be responsible, take part in your own resolution of problems. A little meditation helps too.
    “Change happens at the speed of thought.”
    I recently wrote an info article on this subject for job hunters called: “Get Hired Quick – First Know What Your New Boss is Thinking!” It will be helpful for folks seeking interviews. Also see: “Resume 101 – An Instant Success Tip” My links are below.

  • Merydith Willoughby

    Insecurity is a normal part of being human. We all suffer from it at times – some more than others. It’s natural in the workplace that this will occur and its up to the manager to manage it. This could well be worse at the moment because of the GFC. When people don’t know if they’ll have a job tomorrow it is scary and will naturally cause angst. Communication is important so that everyone in the workplace knows how safe their job is.
    If it’s to be: It’s up to me
    Sex in the Boardroom

  • Alison Smith

    won’t add my own personal thoughts to duplicate much of what’s already been said. So thought I’d see what the FCP process I use to tap into our unconscious comes up with for consideration on the root causes:
    * Not modelling our values
    * Our reaction to criticism and judgement making us feel inadequate or inferior
    * Lack of acceptance
    So a solution as an organisation would be to ensure people understand their values and how they align with the business so that they are able to express them in the work they do. Ensure managers understand how to point out people’s lack of awareness without appearing judgemental or making them feel inadequate or inferior. Ensure people feel accepted.
    Enjoy and find what gives you passion in life

  • Karen Zeigler

    Perfect timing for your question. This month’s topic at My Life Compass is titled “Find Your Confidence” and it’s all about confidence in social situations. Each month My Life Compass tackles a personal development topic. Daily you receive a 3-5 minute podcast in your email. There is also a Monthly Action Plan (MAP) that you download from the website which gives you another 5 minutes of coaching questions to journal about. Depending on the level at which you join there is also 2-3 group coaching sessions where you join others with a coach discussing the topic for the month. You can try 10 days of June’s Find Your Confidence FREE at
    If you have any questions during your trial, please give me a call. The only thing you have to loose is your insecurity.

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