Confidence Issues Affect One in Two of us University Research Shows


One in two people are being held back in their careers because of confidence issues and fears around making mistakes, new research from Nyenrode Business University and IE University has found.

Peter Ryding, serial turnaround CEO and founder of, said the research indicated a symptom of an increasingly ‘VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world’ so it was unsurprising that half of us are suffering with confidence issues in the workplace.

Women and young, educated professionals more likely to suffer

Of the 1,000 people surveyed by the universities, over 40 per cent admitted that they spent around 20-40 per cent of their time at work worrying about getting things wrong. Women were found to struggle more with confidence issues than men, with 46 per cent experiencing confidence issues compared to 33 per cent of men.

Younger, highly educated professionals were significantly more likely than any other demographic to suffer with confidence issues at work, the research found with nearly 70 per cent attributing confidence issues to productivity.

Senior executives also doubt themselves

In a separate survey of over 300 senior executives, self-belief consistently appears in the top 3 areas that leaders would like to see improvement.
Ryding added, “We need to support everyone at every level to change their approach when it comes to encouraging more confidence in the workplace. We all know that innovation is critical for survival and that means experimenting and sometimes failing. The question is, do we educate our people in proven techniques such as ‘test and learn’ or do we celebrate the learning-from failures instead of punishing those people who actually had a go?
“One hundred years on from Pavlov’s canine experiments, we know that if you punish failure, you kill creativity. If you don’t give your people the skills they need and the self-belief and motivation to have a go, they will procrastinate and ultimately, lose confidence as this research has shown.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and VUCA means constant up-skilling is crucial for employees at all levels to remain employable so companies survive.

About the Author

Peter Ryding is an award-winning serial turnaround CEO, champion of HR, top coach to CEOs, and founder of He has over two decades’ experience and a practical sensibility, providing CEOs, MDs, and other business leaders with the inspiration, guidance, and support they need to thrive. He now provides his expertise through AI-driven E-Coaching in VICYourCoach, delivering always-on practical problem-solving. With insight, advice and interactive coaching, it helps everyone change behaviours and make better decisions faster.


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