How employees fall victim to self-doubt


Amid the sea of confident professionals, there’s an employee who is plagued by low self-esteem. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In the hustle and bustle of the modern workplace, where confidence is often revered, there is an unspoken struggle that silently unfolds.

Amid the sea of confident professionals, there’s an employee who perpetually slumps in their chair, their gaze fixated on the floor. They may blend into the background, rarely speaking up or sharing their ideas.

They possess incredible skills but are plagued by low self-esteem. In workplaces worldwide, countless individuals silently battle their inner ‘demons,’ struggling to recognise their worth and contribute their full potential.

The weight of self-doubt can cast a shadow on their abilities, hindering growth and stifling their confidence.

Eugene Muchai, a community associate and culture champion at Amref Health Innovations shares that at the heart of employees feeling insufficient is when their skills are not recognised.

“You do the interview and you get employed then you realise they were interested in filling the position and not quite your skills.”

Sometimes personal issues away from the workplace springing from financial, family and social woes can breed low self-esteem at work.

Mr Muchai says employees who fear failure and see it as an impediment to growth can make them be fixated on thinking about how not to fail as opposed to how they can succeed.


Eugene Muchai is a Community Associate and Culture Champion at Amref Health Innovations. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Also, being in an environment where there is a mismatch of roles and there is no proper induction, an employee can feel out of place.

“For instance, if the employee is not good at social media marketing but interpersonal and the boss feels they need to do the former this employee will not be confident in working,” he adds.

Unfriendly working environment emanating from politics and favouritism, an employee can feel alienated if they are deemed as a threat by his or her colleagues.

Additionally, Mr Muchai notes that drug and substance abuse can dim the esteem light on them especially if they were in the company of friends whom they think are doing better in life.

“Especially some of Generation Z employees who are victims of social pressure and churn out through partying, some may grow dependency which in turn makes them feel that everyone is viewing them as drunkards,” he says.


Christina Lenjou, a psychologist and HR practitioner says while self-esteem is a multi-disciplinary issue, there are signs that employers can be able to know an employee struggling with their esteem.

“These employees have challenges making decisions, can’t contribute in meetings, are poor communicators, withdrawn, critical of their success and lack self-belief, overthinkers, and are workaholics,” she explains.

Additionally, these employees will not be willing to take risks, procrastinate tasks, do struggle to be perfect, have imposter syndrome, and think that they achieved the tasks because either they were lucky or the task was too easy, and they also do not take feedback positively.

Definitely, this will have an effect on their performance and productivity. While some might perform, they still cast doubt on their work which in turn affects their mental health.

“You are forever stressed that you have not performed your best despite being a workaholic. Chronic stress will have effects on your body.”


Christina Lenjou is a Psychologist cum Human Resource Practitioner. FILE PHOTO | POOL

On the other hand, this employee will not see value in what they do or can do and often have feelings that they are not in the right job. This will in turn lead to frequent absenteeism.

Ms Lenjou shares that employers too can make their employees have low self-esteem through their poor management practices.

“A boss who does not give his or her employees autonomy to perform their tasks creates self-doubt amongst them, micro-managing them, spewing toxicity, setting challenging tasks, and do not offer necessary guidance hence employees keep on failing. This will play a number on their mental health as no one likes to keep failing,” she says.


Mr Muchai says guiding staff through proper induction and training on the mode of work is the key to a friendly working environment.

Harnessing teamwork and collaboration helps to distribute the workload and bring in synergies.

“Continuous capacity building for staff will make them more adaptable and up to speed to the changing working environment,” he says.

Engaging employees in the co-creation of ideas helps the employees feel valued and part of the process. This way, they own the project.

Mr Muchai adds that benchmarking with other organisations that have favourable cultures helps them compare notes and adapt to what is working.

To boost morale, employers should come up with policies that are against harassment, bullying, stereotyping and discrimination.

Ms Lenjou intimates that normalising mistakes and giving thoughtful constructive feedback will also help.

Also, not comparing employees with one another and considering their different personalities while making corrections will inhibit humiliation, which then makes them cast doubt on their own achievements.

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