How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem at Work?

How can I improve my self-esteem?

Have you been asking yourself that question a lot? Are you experiencing a lot of stress at work? Do you think it might be because of your boss?

Work-related stress is a serious issue that can affect us physically and emotionally and can diminish our productivity. It can also make it how-can-i-improve-self-esteemhard for us to process and make good decisions. Yet, for some reason, we allow this stress to continue in the workplace.

The Effects of a Mean Boss

Christine Porath writes in the New York Times that she believed her father suffered health issues due to rude and uncivil bosses. She notes how, “Insensitive interactions have a way of whittling away at people’s health, performance and souls.” For instance:

  • The immune system can be compromised.
  • We can develop ulcers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
  • Stress-related increases in levels of glucocorticoids can increase our appetite and lead to obesity.

Missing the Big Picture

Porath discusses studies in which participants were belittled by an experimenter and then asked to do word puzzles. In both studies, the participants who were treated badly performed much worse than the control group. These studies demonstrate that incivility in the workplace can have a direct effect on self-esteem, hampering creativity and productivity.

The Looking Glass Self

We often define ourselves based on how people respond to us. If someone is consistently rude to us, we can conclude that we deserve to be treated badly and our self-esteem suffers in corresponding ways. This can be especially true if we are exposed to the same people  who have the same kinds of reactions to us each day. We may notice these reactions by what they say, as well as by their nonverbal behaviors, such as smiling or frowning. The social scientist Charles Horton Cooley described our propensity to react in these ways as our having a “looking glass self.”

The Mentality of a Rude Boss

Rude and insensitive behavior is often unintentional. However, some supervisors who come off as rude and insensitive do so intentionally. They often believe that, if they behave more kindly, the people under their supervision won’t respect them. In addition, they also believe that a display of warmth and caring to others will indicate a lack of competence, which, in turn, will earn them less respect. However, as Porath points out,  research shows exactly the opposite. It actually pays not to be rude. Those who are rude and uncivil wind up getting promoted despite these attributes, not because of them.

How Can Bosses Be More Civil?

There are several ways that bosses can be more civil at work. These include:

  • Avoid interrupting others.
  • Avoid being judgmental.
  • Paying attention to others’ opinions.
  • Saying please and thank-you.

The people in charge can create an atmosphere that promotes civility. They can change their work culture from one where people need to feel judgmental to one that promotes inclusivity and acceptance.

Not Something That Goes Away

For many people, having an uncivil boss deeply affects their self-esteem, often without their even realizing it. If they do recognize that there is a problem at work, they may tend to think that it’s their issue and that they should, “get over it.” Workers put this on themselves rather than recognize that the problem lies with their boss. This can create tremendous feelings of self-doubt and instill a lack of self-confidence. These feelings may hurt their work performance and, unaddressed, can persist even through job changes and success in their careers.

Seeking Treatment for Self-Esteem Issues

If you are struggling with a rude and insensitive boss and think it’s affecting your self-esteem, consider seeing a psychologist trained to address these issues. Together, you can come to understand why your self-esteem is being affected and learn strategies to cope.  

“How can I improve my self-esteem?” is a question that requires a hard look at your interactions at work with your supervisor. It could be that how you are treated is affecting you not just emotionally, but also physically. By working with a psychologist you can empower yourself to keep your mean boss from getting the better of you, and finally, find satisfaction at work and in your life.

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