The Impact of Insecurity

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Jan 30th, 2011

Insecurity, like trust, is a concept tossed around ad nauseam in today’s corporate culture. Despite it’s less than noble place in the workforce vocabulary, the word has strong implications: the further an insecure employee gets down the leadership continuum, the more debilitating they can be to their company’s productivity and bottom line.

Like all good HR people, I associate a modern employer’s employees with an intangible dollar value. Seems amorphous and undefined, and…well…it is. It is quite difficult for an employer to value its people assets because of all the variables that can’t be accurately accounted for – personality, drive, innovation, critical thinking. Without doubt, though, there is a value attached to each employee. Employees in the western world’s knowledge based economy are as much capital investment as steam engines and locomotives were during the 1800’s industrial revolution.

A March 2003 HR Magazine article by Leslie Weatherly, “Human Capital – the Elusive Asset” stated that, “it’s not unusual for the value of a company’s intangible assets to exceed its book assets by two or three fold.” According to that same article, up to 70% of a company’s expenses may be related to human capital. Most astute business people recognize that a company will not consistently invest 70% of their budget without the expectation of making a profit on the returns.

So, why all this focus on human capital valuation? To make a point – companies invest a lot in their employees and to get respectable returns from their employees, the employees must produce. No company can allow a virus, like insecurity, to infect their crop.

Insecurity, at its most basic form is a feeling of unease or uncertainty that a person feels when they don’t believe they are adequate or have the right skis to do the job. When insecurity is promotes through the management ranks, it manifests itself as leaders that abuse power and manage subordinates in a rigid, top-down fashion.

Personally, I can relate to the dangers of having an insecure boss. In at least one instance, it has led me to leaving a company with no real career opportunities on the horizon. Yes, I eventually found a great new opportunity and I was secure enough to know that I would; but, this article is not about how secure I was in taking a large risk with my career. This article is about the consequences that companies allowing insecurity to fester in their ranks will face. In short, your better, more valuable employees will leave.

How can you or your organization prevent valuable employees from leaving?

If you’ve witnessed an employee that will do anything to make themselves feel better, hence adequate, even at the expense of other employees – acknowledge their insecurities and address them.

Common behaviors of insecure employees include:
 Micromanaging
 Indecisiveness
 Hide and Seek; Shell Games
 Inability to Give Direction
 Overcompensating by bullying, arrogance, or power-mongering

While co-workers and subordinates can devise a multitude of behaviors to manage others’ insecurity, such as heaping recognition and making the boss look good, it is ultimately up to the organization to use their tools to manage the insecure employee.

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