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Dear STC: I Have An Inferiority Complex At Work

December 16, 2009

Hi Bradley,

I don’t know if it’s the environment or the culture, but I just don’t feel like I bond very well the people at work. I have no one that I feel I could go to and chat to about how I am feeling. I am a marketing manager here, and we started having these marketing strategy meetings where everyone seems to have an input/idea and I feel like the one who should have the most ideas should be me but I just can’t seem to have any ideas or enthusiasm when I’m in the meeting. However, when I’m out of the work environment I have ideas about what the company should be doing, but I just feel stupid when I’m at work. It just feels like people are good at telling me what to do but practicing it in-house is more difficult.

I’m not sure whether this is any use though, but I guess i just seem to have this inferior complex with the people at work.

Hope to hear your feedback,



Hi Kate,

Does it take you a little while to warm up to new people, to feel comfortable, or to be yourself? You may indeed be intimidated by your work environment. And you are right – you can not be creative or innovative if you are not relaxed and confident, therefore you are getting all your best thinking done when you are away from the office!

In the meantime, you may be wondering what everyone thinks of you (probably stupid), and end up making the situation worse with your own negative self-talk. This surely blows everything way out of proportion and it then becomes a vicious cycle.

I think you just need a fresh jump start, and the relaxed, confident you will start flowing. Here are some ideas.

1. Remember that YOU ARE BRILLIANT!

Why do you think your company hired you to begin with? You must straighten up that back and start walking around with more confidence, as if you are the savvy Marketing Manager that they hired. Even if you don’t feel it, try to act like it. Sometimes our physical actions precede our emotional feelings (really, I learned that from a Ph.D. psychologist!). Find ways to boost your confidence every day – read some good business/career books, find a friend who can be an encouragement to you, list all of the fantastic accomplishments you have already achieved. See? You are a force to be reckoned with.

2. Make a plan and communicate your progress.

Do you have specific goals and targets that the rest of the team understands that you are responsible for? If you can start making headway on some of those goals, you can begin talking up the results you have initiated and brought to the company. That may also help boost your confidence while at the same time allow others to start noticing your keen management capabilities. Be sure to conspire with your boss on this too, so that you have buy-in and an ally (even if it is weak) regarding your plans and intentions for the organization.

3. Take someone out to breakfast or lunch.

Honestly, this is such an overlooked strategy, and is so simple. Everyone has to eat, right? Pick a key strategic player who you get on with, but who can also help you understand the culture. Don’t give away your insecurity. Instead, ask a ton of questions about that person, how they became so successful, and if they have any suggestions for you to do even better. Also, ask them who the next person is you should have lunch with. And so on. It’s one way to build social networks at your company. Trust me, you’ll need them down the road.

4. Plan what you are going say in those meetings.

If you know there is a meeting coming up where you might be intimidated, PLAN AHEAD! Get your ducks in a row, be decisive about one or two ideas you can offer, and then SPEAK UP!!! Remember, you are the only one right now who thinks you are stupid, no one else. Generally, in my experience, people want to give the new person a chance. So go for it!

I hope this helps a little. Let me know how it goes! I will also say a prayer for you every day this week. Sometimes God reveals the pathways for us when we least expect.



This is one of a sampling of letters – well, emails really – that I have received from readers of my posts “It’s Okay To Feel Stupid Sometimes” and “Are You Feeling Stupid At Work? I’m Here To Help.” It’s also a chance for you to comment with better advice than what I gave. I mean, what do I know?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 8:44 pm

    Such good advice.

    It would be interesting to hear back from those sending in questions. Are they putting your tips or advice to use? What happened when they did?

  2. December 17, 2009 3:27 pm

    What I have found is that we are all desperately insecure, but we mask it many different ways. I think the tips you gave are great, but I would add one more.

    Be honest about how you feel. You are NOT alone in that meeting. Everyone is feeling the same way that you are. The amount of respect that you will earn from people by being honest will outweigh the embarrassment you may feel. You will also find you get better ideas from your meetings.

    It’s always an eye opener when you allow yourself to be vulnerable how most of the people you feel inferior to feel the exact same way about you. Are defensive mechanism are great at fooling others, but never ourselves.

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