By Robert Kelsey, The Globe and Mail, Published: May 2013

confWork is where confidence matters most. It can make or break us – meaning that if we develop poor confidence at work, reversing it is a must. There’s nothing innate about poor confidence. It comes from negative thoughts and experiences. To develop workplace confidence, therefore, we simply need to replace this negativity with positive thinking and actions.

Easier said than done? Sure. But here are 10 tips to set your thinking in the right direction.

1. Change your viewpoint.

Under-confident people tend to be obsessed about the impact others have on them. Instead, they should notice the impact they have on others. This one change can make a fantastic difference to your effectiveness at work because it immediately empowers you. Suddenly, you’re in charge of your own destiny because it’s what you do that matters, not what others do to you.

2. Assume you’re not being exploited.

Too many people regard the workplace environment as one in which they’re exploited. That somehow the owners are stealing their time, their endeavour, their creativity. Feelings of being conned are a mental ball and chain that prevent you from doing your job well – contributing instead to your (self-designated) lowly status, which kills confidence. Avoid such negativity by always considering yourself a “work in progress,” and your current job an apprenticeship for the next level.

3. Be conscientious.

This is vital for confidence. Deep down, you know when you’re doing your best and when you’re slacking. Yet slacking (perhaps because you feel exploited) is a one-way street in the wrong direction. It’s de-energizing in the extreme: lowering your motivation, undermining your well-being and sapping your confidence. So do the opposite: work hard. Motivate yourself by developing a personal mission-statement, perhaps covering the next six months.

4. Advertise the new you.

One mission statement could be to “work hard and get noticed.” This means you need to stop complaining, stop erecting barriers and stop looking for excuses. Turn it round by calculating how to get through the barriers and how to make sure the new-you is noticed. If necessary, bang on the boss’s door and tell him/her: “This is the new me – now watch me go!”

5. Have a plan (but slow it down).

Mission statements work in the short-term. Beyond that you need detailed plans – looking ahead five or even 10 years. This can be a struggle, so here’s a shortcut: link your desired future to your present circumstances by using each year as a new stage that gets you closer to your goal. For example, if you’re an office cleaner now and want to become an actor in five years, here’s how:

Year One: Swap office cleaning for theatre cleaning.

Year Two: Become chief cleaner. Get to know the theatre well and state your intentions, as well as join the theatre’s amateur dramatics club.

Year Three: Move to backstage operations – now involved with the actors and directors. And become a leading light in the Drama Club.

Year Four: Understudy a key role, which means rehearsing with the actors. Meanwhile, a small role’s come up in the Christmas Pantomime.

Year Five: Play an important role in a new production!

Such a route is not only doable (because your only need is to get to the next stage) it also offers a realistic timeframe, which should decrease the frustrations that can kill confidence.

6. Don’t undermine yourself.

The under-confident often communicate poor confidence to those around them. This can be via the innocent-seeming cloak of self-deprecation, which secretly aims to lower others’ expectations of you. You shouldn’t talk yourself down, although talking yourself up is equally a trait of the insecure. Neither is necessary. You have your long-term plans and your immediate goals. You simply need to follow them to the best of your abilities.

7. Understand your company.

Knowing the organization you work for is vital. I mean really knowing it:

Who runs your organization? Not just the names of the chairman and CEO but the entire board and even the heads of departments. And their backgrounds as well: where have they all come from, what projects do they champion, what’s their philosophy? Every morsel of information will make you a more effective operator at work – increasing your confidence and helping you spot opportunities.

What about your sector? Every industry sector is a narrow world with its own champions, challengers, risers, fallers, celebrities and heroes. There’s no excuse for not knowing the latest innovations, or legal rulings, mergers or deals or even just gossip – not least because it’ll put you eye-to-eye with the seniors.

Don’t forget the technicalities. You need to get under the bonnet and take an interest in what your company does: not least because it may reveal your total disregard for the sector you’re in, which maybe seriously undermining your confidence (making a sector move a must).

8. Get yourself known.

To get yourself known you don’t have to march upstairs and introduce yourself to all the seniors on your first day. Just put yourself about by introducing yourself to unknown faces. This doesn’t have to be forced: it’s simply being friendly and open to meeting people. It’s also a great use of all that information – turning names into faces and departments into people.

9. Avoid “affected uselessness.”

Strict boundaries with respect to your job role can prevent you developing competences and expanding your horizons, especially if you bump up against those feeling guarded about their role. Yet too often we demarcate ourselves – becoming reluctant or even refusing to go beyond our brief because of some perceived boundary, especially with jobs we feel are beneath us. Sure, we may actually be ignorant of some technicality. But there’s the open response, in which we seek help in order to acquire the skill. And there’s the closed response, in which we surrender our competence by mentally crossing our arms and refusing to work until some minion has put it right.

10. Enjoy your job.

Look around any office and those who enjoy their job stand out. They’re engaged, positive, forthcoming, optimistic, open to suggestion, happy to contribute, proactive and mostly cheerful. Yet those that don’t enjoy their job are equally obvious. They’re distracted, guarded, defensive, negative, pessimistic, reactive and mostly grumpy. Scratch the surface, and most also harbour deep insecurities – often masked through constantly blaming others for every negative event. Being on the wrong side of this equation destroys your confidence. In my view, it’s worth risking ruin and starvation to avoid, although such extremes are not necessary. Mostly, we just need to research what motivates us, create a plan for our future and a strategy for our actions. And then we just need to get moving in the right direction.