The Insecurity Dilemma
Insecurity can be a huge road block. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Last week, in an attempt to solve a resource capacity issue, I was working with the department manager to find a solution. I was met by an immediate roadblock (hereafter, I will refer to this manager as “the road blocker”).
Backstory — this employees’ department is overworked. Not enough people, coupled with inexperienced team members (slower pace, need extra support, require ongoing training etc.), plus more and more new projects coming down the pipe means things are cracking. The risk? Either people are going to burn out, the work isn’t going to get done, or the quality of their outputs will suffer.
The latest? A new fully custom project for a client. With existing resources, there was no way we were going to get it done. Unfortunately, the size of this additional project isn’t enough to justify adding permanent resources to the team. However, the revenue from the project does cover some contract support.
I approached the road blocker, explained the situation, gave them a budget to use for contract support, and even offered to help find/vet resources. The road blocker was quick to tell me all the reasons why creative staffing solutions in the short-term wouldn’t work.
I thought I was coming to the table with a solution. And was taken aback with the road block response. “We can’t use external resources because….” “This won’t work because…”
Insecurity as the Root Cause of Inaction
After some reflection, and discussions with a peer, it became apparent that the road blocker was operating from a place of insecurity. Turns out, they did not know how to approach the external resource option. They weren’t sure how to create the appropriate job posting, where to post the job, what requirements would be needed from a contract worker, how the contract position would work practically, etc. So — the immediate response was “this won’t work.”
Insecurity took a bad situation, and made it worse. Rather than embracing solutions, and looking for different ways of making things work, the road blocker shut down. Their insecurity prevented them for thinking, made them less approachable (therefore less likely to receive support even if they ask for it), and caused more stress for everyone involved.
Combatting Insecurity with Small Steps Forward
After connecting the road blocker with a colleague, and having the two brainstorm how to make the solution work together, the road blocker relaxed and started thinking clearly. They felt supported, were able to collaborate, and the result was instantaneous — they were able to take small, practical steps forward operating from a place of clarity (instead of insecurity).
Sometimes , all you need to do is take one step at a time, and lay out a plan. In this case, the first few steps were to:
- Draft a job description — it doesn’t have to be perfect
- Post the job description in a familiar place — we post all our jobs on Indeed (for permanent full-time employees); this may not be the ideal place to find contract workers, but start there and see what happens.
- Talk to other people — ask other people in your network where they look to hire contract workers.
Side note: I’ve found that just by taking one step forward, everything can feel more manageable. Feeling overwhelmed? Take one small step; figure out one small thing you can do. You’ll be amazed at how quickly one small step can lead to the next, and the next, and the next. Like the snowball effect, where momentum leads to momentum.
Insecurity From Misaligned Expectations
In this case, the other thing worth noting was… no one expected the road blocker to know how to do all these things. Yet they were afraid to articulate their insecurities and ask question. As their manager, I expected them to highlight what they don’t know so I could help. But I wasn’t going to spoon feed or hold their hand right away.
Clearly, there was a misalignment on expectations here.
Lack of clarity on expectations is a sure fire way to set someone up for insecurity. The easiest way to avoid this — be clear from the onset, ask questions, and make sure both sides understand what they are responsible for (and not responsible for).
The Root of Insecurity
Back to the root of the insecurity questions. Outside of expectations, which we can do our best to articulate but won’t always get right, where does insecurity come from? How do we move past it and create a culture where people are comfortable in not knowing? I don’t have the answers… yet.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would love your input!
Questions to reflect on:
- Have you let insecurity prevent you from action? When have you been the road blocker?
- How do we, as managers, miss the signs of insecurity? How can we catch this earlier in the future?
- How do we get to a place where the initial reaction isn’t “why is this person being so hard to work with?” But rather, “what’s preventing this person from moving forward?”
- How do we create a culture where people are comfortable in not knowing and know that they will be supported in learning to figure things out?