Do you have employees who struggle with confidence? Are they afraid to voice their opinions or assert themselves? Do they seem anxious to communicate with you?

If so, your office is like most others. People have different personalities; some are more confident while others prefer to stay behind the scenes. In many cases, encouraging less-confident employees to act more decisively or voice their opinion can benefit the company. Confident and capable employees are often effective communicators who are more willing to provide constructive feedback or suggest new ideas.

Quiet doesn’t necessarily mean shy. Some people just don’t feel the need to insert their points into every conversation. Their opinions should and do matter. The question is, how do you help these quiet employees feel more confident or willing to engage?

  1. Encourage employees to email clients or associates

By encouraging employees to communicate more with important clients and peers, they will develop confidence as they build an in-person rapport with the people they email. Not only will they feel more relaxed but they will also feel more important and valued.

Furthermore, if they are communicating with clients they will have information. This gives them an opportunity to brief the team or their boss on client updates. As they grow in confidence, they will improve their interaction and communication.

  1. Suggest employees speak on conference calls (validate their statements/opinions)

Similar to email, encourage employees to be more vocal on conference calls. Unlike face-to-face interaction, conference calls have a certain level of privacy. Quiet employees may feel more comfortable speaking on a call than interacting in person. Occasionally, ask for their opinion and give them constructive feedback. By encouraging them to speak up, they will begin to feel more confident and valued at work.

  1. Promote social media

Social media dramatically affects an individual’s perception of themselves. Encourage staff to suggest content for a company’s social media accounts. Discuss ideas for both business and personal pages to help employees identify inappropriate or unprofessional content.  LinkedIn and Facebook can be excellent ways to build a professional and confident identity while staying productive.

  1. Support small improvements

Large changes in production or behavior are generally unlikely. However, if you do notice an employee who has improved in some facet (attention to detail, productivity, communication) do not hesitate to acknowledge it. If you think it wise, congratulate them in front of others to publicly acknowledge their success. These little reminders are key for reinforcing employee confidence. In many cases, employees lacking confidence or with self-esteem issues will think you may have a poor opinion of them. Positive reinforcement and reassurance can be helpful, as long as it is genuine.

  1. Play to their strengths

If you want an employee to really grow in confidence, encourage them to work in areas in which they are naturally gifted. Research shows people will succeed faster when using natural gifts. Constantly expecting someone who is not mathematically gifted to “run the numbers” will only end up in frustration. Furthermore, they are more likely to find success. If they do, acknowledge their success and continue to put them in a position to succeed. 

Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE is the CEO of VanNatta Public Relations a PR, Event Planning and Strategic Communications firm located in Salem, Oregon., @PRSalem.