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The Question

I’ve always been really insecure, in life generally and especially at work. I’m always nervous that I’m not performing at level or doing enough. I started a new position in January and am loving it so far. But Performance Management Season is coming up and I have a one-on-one soon with my manager about my performance. My manager clearly cares about our mental health and I’m feeling the need to let my manager know about my insecurities. I think they would be receptive, but I’m also nervous that by showing my hand like this, I’ll look incompetent. Should I bring this up with my manager? If yes, how?

The First Answer

Iris Cai, leadership coach and well-being strategist, Iris Cai Coaching & Consulting, Vancouver

Your manager seemed to have created the psychological safety you need to consider sharing your insecurities. I encourage you to have that conversation. Here is why:

You may have your own “story” of you not being “good enough.” Sharing areas you are insecure about provides an opportunity for your manager to tell you their version of the story. They may even reveal some strengths you have that you’re not aware of.

Knowing about your insecurities may remind your manager to acknowledge you and your work more often and to give you work assignments that grow your confidence. They can also check on your progress in the future.

To avoid appearing “incompetent,” bring your own solution to the discussion, not just “the problem.”

Start by getting to know the strengths in your character and your professional strengths. Research shows that people who understand and apply their strengths are more confident, happier and perform better at work. These two assessments could help you: VIA Character Strengths and CliftonStrengths.

Tell your manager stories of how you use these strengths. It’s a great way for them to learn more about you. You can also develop a plan with them to use your strengths in new ways.

Seeing a coach or counsellor regularly over a few months can help you practise shifting your attention from “not feeling good enough” to accepting and celebrating yourself.

Feeling insecure is common, especially among high achievers. You are at the cusp of a transformation by sensing this need for support. Congratulations!

The Second Answer

Mélanie McClure, chief human resource officer, FX Innovation, Montreal

Your concerns are legitimate and you’re certainly not alone in feeling the way that you do. It is common to feel insecure and anxious when having discussions about personal performance. I would say that we’ve all felt this way at some point in our careers. That said, you should absolutely address this concern.

I will assume that you have a good manager: one who wants his/her employees to succeed, who is empathetic and who offers the right context to grow. So here are some tips to think of when addressing your insecurities with your manager:

1. Name your emotion. This helps to diffuse the stress and lessen the burden that this situation is causing you. For example: “I’m happy we’re taking this time to discuss my performance and get your feedback. I have to say that I’m a little nervous as it’s very important to me that I meet your expectations.”

2. Be yourself. Authenticity always pays off. Plus, your manager knows that it is to his/her advantage to get to know you in order to properly guide you for success.

3. Don’t wait. The last point, which is key to managing your insecurities and stress around these types of conversations, is suggesting that your manager gives you feedback. Discuss and realign with your manager on a regular basis rather than waiting for official meetings. Frequent check-ins will ensure that you are continuously aligned and don’t have to stress about your evaluation because there shouldn’t be any surprises.

All-in-all, what’s important to remember is to trust and be true to yourself and speak from the heart. Your manager will support and empower you, as a good manager should.

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