Self-esteem and strength-based development in the workplace
Self-esteem affects virtually every aspect of human lives. However, it is an area often overlooked past the teenage years and especially so in the workplace. In reality it should be no surprise that individuals develop what is called an organisation-based self-esteem; a form of self-esteem focused around their job and organisational experience. This determines their feelings of worth and value in their job[1].


So, why is it important, from an organisational perspective, for staff members to have a healthy self-esteem? Healthy levels of self-esteem amongst employees have repeatedly been positively correlated with: employee motivation, organisational commitment, job performance and job satisfaction [2], to name a few. Further, Candace Webb notes that employees who are more confident in themselves have fewer sick days, better relationships with their colleagues and are more focused on their work.


On the other hand, low organisationally-based self-esteem can prohibit employees from reaching their full potential, preventing them from achieving their career goals. This lack of confidence in one’s value and worth in the workplace can cause the employee to:

  1. avoid risks
  2. withhold ideas
  3. reduce productivity, and
  4. elicit pessimistic thoughts regarding their job and/or workplace [3]

So, it can be inferred that employee self-esteem is a key determinant in organisational culture and can affect business outcomes. Consequently, it is important for employers to recognise and try to improve self-esteem among their people.


Many techniques for improving self-esteem rely on the individual changing their own behaviour. For example a 2014 article from Harvard Business Review [4] suggests individuals should create short term goals and reject self-defeatist thoughts to increase their workplace confidence. However, there are also methods managers can use to help boost their employee’s self-esteem. One such method is the use of strengths based-development.


Strengths-based development is a relatively new concept and leadership trend. The strengths-based theory has been formed through work by the Gallup Organisation [5], as well as research by Peter Drucker and Jim Collins, and is it now utilized in the learning and development programmes of many highly successful companies.


While it has long been commonplace for managers to try and develop employees to fit a perfect ‘all-rounder’ mould, this notion ignores individual differences between employees thereby overlooking their personal strengths. Buckingham and Coffman (1997) wrote “People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in”. This could be seen as a general basis for strengths-based development. In opposition to a more traditional approach to training known as the deficit model of professional development [6] which focuses on developing the weaknesses of employees to create a staff who have all been trained to a uniform level, strength-based development focuses on recognising, encouraging and applying employees personal strengths in their work.


Extensive research from the Gallup Organisation (2014) provides evidence that building on employee strengths is far more beneficial than trying to develop employee weaknesses. The Gallup studies identified many positive outcomes for businesses that use Strengths-based development including: increased employee engagement, increased retention amongst both customers and employees and more consistent performance across departments. Further, strengths-based development actually makes group interaction more important and common. Colleagues can recognise each other’s strengths and therefore relate to each other more easily, enhancing cohesion amongst teams. In utilizing strengths-based development businesses create diverse teams with a broad range of strengths – giving a competitive advantage over businesses in which all employees are simply trained up to one standard. Furthermore, higher levels of self-esteem occur when strengths-based development practices are in place; meaning businesses who use such techniques also gain the high motivation, commitment and performance associated with healthy self-esteem from their employees [7]. Given the numerous positive outcomes for businesses that implement strengths-based development it is not hard to see why Steven Crabtree described strengths-based cultures as “vital to the future of work”.


So, with the research making it clear that strengths-based development (and in turn increased employee self-esteem) has the potential to completely transform organisational cultures, employee happiness and achieve improved business outcomes, is this what could take your business to the next level? Strengths-based development relies on leaders being committed to helping their people recognise and build on their talents.


Here at Adaptis we create bespoke development programmes, whereby team members complete a Strength Deployment Inventory and the output leads to the design of a development programme specific to the business’ needs. The programme will help businesses understand the strengths of the individuals in its team and also develop and utilize these strengths so it can reap the benefits associated with good self esteem.

  1. Pierce, J. (1989)Organisation-based self-esteem: Construct definition, measurement and validation. []
  2. Pierce, J & Gardner, D (2004) Self-Esteem Within the Work and Organisational Context: A Review of the Organisational Based Self-Esteem Literature []
  6. Kennedy, A. (2005). Models of Continuing Professional Development: a framework for analysis. Journal of In-service Education, 31(2), 235-249.
  7. Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T. B., & Hurling, R. (2011). Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: A longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 15–19.