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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Workplace doctor: confidence is key when taking on a new role

Being able to honestly look at your own skills and abilities will allow a clear understanding of your own strengths.

Taking on a new role in a new organisation can be daunting but having a clear idea of your strengths can help ease the path. Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg
Taking on a new role in a new organisation can be daunting but having a clear idea of your strengths can help ease the path. Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

I have recently joined a major retailer as part of the back-office management team but I am finding my line manager seems to expect me to know about more the operation than I feel I should. I am not responsible for every aspect of the company although I believe I am well informed with regards to my role and that of other team members. However, my confidence is being eroded by being regularly pulled aside and told I should be able to answer questions put to me about a much wider range of matters than my role requires. How can I best manage the situation?

BZ, Abu Dhabi

Joining a new organisation can be both exciting and overwhelming. Inevitably, there is an intrinsic and necessary learning phase when you first join, so it is important to understand the scope and priority areas of the learning that is required. At the same time, it can be very difficult to constantly operate in an environment where you feel that your confidence is being eroded and you are regularly being told that you should know more than you do.

Confidence is the key to being successful. It is about your ability to believe in who and what you are, as well as enabling you to stretch outside of your comfort zone for future growth and progression.

Barriers and obstacles are not deterrents for confident people, in fact they are often catalysts in the growth process. Being able to honestly look at your own skills and abilities will allow a clear understanding of your own strengths. As such, it is easier to recognise when criticism is either groundless or potentially valid.

It could be tremendously valuable to have a more systemic view of the organisation and its interdependencies, as many organisations suffer from the ill effects of silo mentalities. Without a more enterprise orientated mindset, people tend to focus on local optimisation only, often resulting in a negative impact on the whole.Furthermore, for your own personal development, you may want to consider taking on responsibilities outside of your role requirements. Firstly, it can be a growth opportunity within the organisation through demonstrating skills and capabilities that your manager may not be fully aware of. By taking on more responsibilities within a wider scope you also strengthen your negotiation position when asking for a pay rise. Lastly, it additionally provides you access and exposure to new experiences and skill sets, which can open the door to future opportunities and promotion.

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Learning agility is another major consideration. In the uncertain and constantly changing work environment today, it is not only important to be able to learn what is needed in a new position, but it is also necessary to be able to shift and adapt in current roles and positions that evolve due to the changing needs and requirements of the business.

So, how can you best manage the situation? It sounds like your line manager has an expectation that does not align with your take on the role’s requirements. It is important to have a conversation to see where this misalignment comes from. Perhaps the person who held the position before you demonstrated an ability to answer a wide range of questions, and although it is not explicit in your job description, the expectation has been set that you should be able to do the same? It is also feasible that you and your manager are interpreting parts of your job description in different ways.

Another possibility is that your manager sees greater potential for you, so rather than viewing this as a problem, it could be an opportunity? For better clarity and understanding, communication with your line manager is crucial.

As you are fairly new in the organisation, you may not have had enough exposure to the different parts of the organisation which could enable you to better answer a wide range of questions. How can you increase your interaction and engagement with different areas to overcome this? Perhaps there are mentoring opportunities available from within the organisation that will allow for this? If you have colleagues with similar responsibilities in a similar role to yours, how did they gain an understanding of a broader remit? See how you can best equip yourself for a more rounded understanding of matters across the organisation.

Doctor’s prescription

It is up to you to let your confidence be developed or undermined. Gain clarity on the scope and expectations of the role and if it is broader than anticipated, find the means to accelerate your own knowledge and understanding. This in turn will develop your confidence as well.