How to Tell Someone They’re Insecure

Today’s headline is actually one of the searches that brought a reader to Cubicle Confessions. I grabbed it because it’s so challenging. Regardless of your relationship with this person, you’ll see the best results if you handle the situation with gentleness and subtlety. No matter how much you want to tell this person off — and trust me I know how annoying their actions can be — take the higher road and use patience and a little guidance. There are a few ways this can play out. If the person is:   

  • a close co-worker then you may feel comfortable using the word “insecure” and being direct with this person. If not, you can still use gentler suggestions on how this person can stand up and not let others take advantage. Maybe this close co-worker tends to take everything personally. Try to talk him/her down; reinforce the fact that not everything initiated by others at work is meant as a personal attack.
  • a colleague or work acquaintence, you still may feel comfortable counseling this person because essentially you are trying to make him/her feel better. Provide gentle suggestions on how this person can change his/her perspective about a situation to try to turn it around.
  • someone senior to you like a manager, department head, VP (or higher), then mum’s the word. You cannot say anything directly to this person. You can however, change your behavior which will force their behavior to change. When you change the way you react, the other person instinctively picks up the change and you will start to see different reactions. 

Survival Strategy

Insecurity tends to make people very ugly because they feel vulnerable. I know this next advice sounds vague, but try to determine what sets this person off and work to diffuse those situations. Only by understanding the behavior can you learn to work around it. Here’s an example:

I once worked for a senior vice president who expressed her insecurity by bullying others. She would manage by fear and even drop the F-bomb to try to shock you. My best defense was to learn her patterns and strategize around them. When presenting a new project I made sure I included details I knew she’d focus on, but then I went that extra step and consulted a group of internal folks who not only worked closely with this senior vice president, but worked with her for years. Use others to help you build defenses.

What types of insecure people have you encountered? Share your stories! 



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