How to tackle people's insecurities at your workplace

Rather, should you be tackling it at all?

By Sanjeev Pradhan Roy

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Published: Thu 31 Aug 2023, 6:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 31 Aug 2023, 6:23 PM

“When people are trying to bring you down, it only means that you are above them.”

While we talk about different facets of worklife behaviours, we seldom overlook a common thread that plagues all strata of hierarchy — “insecurity”.

It’s a phenomenon that afflicts mainly the weakest link in the team who hasn’t evolved with time, misplaced hubris of the so-called powerful and people afraid of change. Insecurity manifests itself in a toxic work environment when others’ success isn’t celebrated, cynicism is at an all-time high, and the mask of pretence is easily seen by most but not by the subject. It could also happen due to perceived lack of support, partisan approach and being in the comfort zone for too long.

This also has a metaphorical parallel in life that is about evolution and rediscovery. A case in point is the classic tale of the American bald eagle. After 30 odd years, the American bald eagle finds that it is not relevant as a predator, its talons have become rather big and curved, its feathers get fungus and its beak is unsuitable for preying; it faces either starvation and death or goes through a painful process of self-discovery. It uses its beak to pluck off all its feathers, take out all the nails from the talons and destroys its beak against the rock and goes through a period of self-discovery and regrowth of the beak, talons and feathers. What follows next is the famous flight of the American Eagle in its second birth, devoid of insecurities and full of optimism.

Given the workplace dynamics and the levels of evolution, triviality is prioritised and egotism rules at the cost of purposeful action-taking. There are also halos of bias that creep in a lot of teams due to the archaic conditioning of the heads who favour a certain nexus, lobby or creed they are comfortable with. Chinese whispers and lobby conversations dominate on hearsay and opinions without fact-checking or burden of proof.

Ordinarily, the ones affected are those who have moved beyond people to ideas and find themselves stuck in a whirlpool of quicksand that adds more nuisance value than tangible impact.

The way out of the mess is to keep building on the individual brilliance and strength that has brought you so far in life, ignoring the echo chambers of negativity and standing up against actions that are detrimental to self-respect and professionalism. You cannot afford to lose your belief system and edge. As organisations are transient, toxicity is prevalent in most, it’s how you learn to navigate your way forward that builds crucial life skills.

The other nemesis is comparison with others, which is not a useful yardstick as each person has had a unique journey, and individuals are infinitely differentiated with their success stories and should not be painted in the same brush of mediocre and exalted benchmarks.

I would like to leave you with the epic Oscar speech of actor Matthew McConaughey for reflection. He spoke about his hero in life who he would chase and he/she would always be 5-10 years away from finally becoming one, as the goalposts would keep changing and milestones keep getting bigger.

It is important to have someone to look up to (you), someone to look forward to (you) and someone to chase (you) to keep the flames of passion alive. Let’s be inspired by others who matter, but it’s our journey and it’s beautiful, alright. Let us stop for a moment and raise a toast to that.

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