Learning to recognise and deal with low self-esteem is not easy but it is invaluable.
Managing someone with low self-esteem is complicated. Everyone holds opinions about the type of person they are; these are at the heart of self-esteem and affect how people feel about, and value, themselves. Self-esteem is not static. Beliefs about self can change as a result of circumstance and experience.
People with low self-esteem will often hold beliefs that are negative, and focus on their weaknesses and the mistakes they have made. It is important for managers to spot the person with a low self-esteem and enable them to manage their job. Key behaviours you may notice are:
- Low resilience and being less able to cope with the stresses of the job;
- Depression, over sensitivity, being easily upset;
- Anxiety - they may visibly shake, blush and panic;
- Avoidance of social situations;
- Difficulty forming personal relationships;
- Belief of being incompetent and unintelligent, resulting in struggle; avoidance of tasks or trying to produce a piece of work that is perfect;
- Tiredness due to a regular lack of sleep; and
- Neglecting appearance, either through poor diet, lack of exercise, poor work-life balance;
- No outside interests.
As self-esteem is complex, people can show one of the above or a mix of everything.
Once you realise someone has low self-esteem - no one is happy all of the time but this goes beyond temporary unhappiness - address this or issues will emerge in work outputs, relationships and more. Having regular one-to-one meetings with all of your team will help this and not draw attention to the person(s) you are dealing with.
Work can provide identity, friendship, a steady routine and a salary so creating a stable environment for the individual is important. Try to see people as individuals who make a valuable contribution to the workplace and don’t compare them to others. Create a working environment where put downs and a lack of respect are not tolerated but helpful comments are made, compliments accepted, employees considerate and positive qualities are acknowledged. Also ensure a good work-life balance.
Always remember your role and therefore your boundaries, Your concern will be for the wellbeing of your staff so they function effectively at work.
If one (or more) of your employees is experiencing significant anxiety, depression or stress, refer them to other professional support and work within the guidelines your workplace offers through the relevant policies. The easiest referral mechanism is often through the individual’s GP, but they may have to be encouraged to go.
Tips on handling low self-esteem
- Have regular one to ones with all staff to check on their work performance and health
- Notice if a person’s behaviour is changing and fits some of the key behaviours for low self-esteem
- Never ignore low self-esteem and decide how to manage it together
- Create a working environment that is supportive rather than destructive
- Become familiar with the support mechanisms both inside and outside your organisation
Sue Hodgetts is chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Management and has extensive experience in the field of education and training, both within and outside the NHS.