None of us are strangers to doubters. We are constantly dealing with people that doubt our capabilities. They can be colleagues, direct reports, bosses or even clients. Doubters go out of their way to prove us wrong. They question our experiences, ability to get the job done and even our approach. Working with people like this can be demotivating and lead us to constantly second guess ourselves.
We experience doubters in all stages of our careers.
Early Career/Professional: If you are early in your career, you may find that doubters think that you are too young or inexperienced to know what you are doing. They may talk down to you, ignore you in a meeting or make condescending jokes about your age.
Mid-Career/Management: As you gain more experience in your career and eventually start managing teams, doubters become more complex.They are no longer confined to colleagues or bosses; and now can consist of direct reports, clients and many other stakeholders. Some common motivators for doubters at this stage is that they may be resentful that they have to report to you, they may think that you don’t deserve your position, or they may think their goals are more important than yours.
Executive/Leadership: Once you reach the executive level, doubters are everywhere! They can be employees within your organization, clients, colleagues and others. The higher you go in the organization, the more susceptible you are to doubters. At this level, if you have too many doubters, it’s common to start doubting yourself.
Although career stages may influence how we experience doubters, navigating them, for the most part, is a universal approach. Here are a few tips:
1. Approach the doubter: You can ruminate and speculate what the doubter is thinking, or you can just ask. Albeit often difficult, having the tough conversation will help you minimize stress. For example, if a doubter is ignoring you, approach them, tell them what you are experiencing and ask if they were aware. Try to understand their point of view. The empowering boost that you get from initiating a conversation will eventually flood out the stress that you experienced from inaction. Pride and fear keeps many of us from having these conversations but, if you step into your courage just once to start a conversation, you may permanently open communication lines.
2. Find your tribe: If for some reason, you not ready to approach the doubter, minimize your contact with them. Shift your time to building strong allyships. Not only will these bonds will help you improve your confidence, but they will also lead to strong relationships that effectively shield you from the doubters.
3. Stay focused. Stay focused on your job and don’t allow the doubter to distract you too much. Create boundaries where needed and throw yourself into your work and allies. If possible, try to find ways to tune doubters out as much as possible.
I will end with this. Don’t be a doubter! If you are having internal churn about someone, step into your courage and have a conversation. You may have to do it more than once. We will always have doubters to the more we learn how to deal with them, the better off we will be.
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