Talented employees who lack confidence in their skills pose challenges to supervisors. You may know your employee is fully capable of completing a task, but if the employee doesn’t know it himself, his productivity and morale suffer. Such employees are more likely to seek out constant reassurance with their supervisors, checking in constantly without need—a situation that’s frustrating and stressful for supervisor and employee alike.

With time and a little patience, you can build confidence at work and help shy, insecure employees reach their potential. Here are nine tips for creating a more confident, self-reliant employee.

Listen to Their Concerns

Just because you can see a nervous employee’s potential doesn’t mean they can. Take the time to connect with them and listen to their concerns. By doing so, you’ll discover what aspects of their job cause them stress and anxiety, so you can focus your confidence-building efforts in those areas.

Build on Success

Building confidence at work often means building on an employee’s previous successes. Identify what they do well and then help them transfer those skills to new projects and responsibilities. Talk up their previous success a little as you let them know you think they’re ready for added responsibilities with less supervision. Build up to greater responsibilities gradually—even the most confident of employees can panic if they’re thrown into the metaphorical deep end without assistance.

Assign Specific Project Parameters

Offering clear expectations helps when building confidence at work. Specific parameters, guides, and deadlines give nervous employees a structured framework where it’s easy to determine whether they’ve completed a task successfully.

Assign them a Mentor

Job shadowing and mentoring give employees opportunities to learn skills on-the-job and gain familiarity with their work responsibilities. It’s important to match unconfident employees with the right mentor—an employee who resents being shadowed isn’t going to fill a less experienced worker with confidence—but used correctly, mentoring is a powerful tool for building self-reliance.


Employees see training as a sign management values their contributions and wants to invest in them. Knowledge and skill-building can make a nervous employee more self-assured and more comfortable with job responsibilities.

Acknowledge Success

You want to reach a point where unconfident employees aren’t looking for your guidance and approval constantly, but that doesn’t mean you stop acknowledging their successes. Even a casual mention of a job well done goes a long way towards building confidence at work, especially when delivered in front of coworkers.

Teach Them to Fail Forward

For an unconfident employee, even a small mistake can leave them convinced they’re teetering on the edge of dismissal. While you obviously want to avoid as many workplace mistakes as possible, remind employees that failure is often a stepping stone to success. Teach them to “fail forward,” turning each mistake into an opportunity to learn and improve.

Offer Timely Feedback

Nervous employees assume often assume no news is bad news, so keep your performance feedback timely when building confidence. Include positive statements while giving constructive criticism. For instance, point out what the employee did right, offer suggestions for improvement, and then end by reminding them how much they’ve improved.

Make them Mentors

This tactic for building confidence at work must be introduced at the right time. Mentoring others can be a real morale booster, but only when the employee is ready for it. Take note of the employee’s best skills, and assign him or her a new employee to train in this area. Teaching others is an excellent way of reinforcing how skilled an employee is.