Being Confident at Work Without Being Cocky

Being Confident at Work Without Being Cocky

How does a faithful professional remain confident without becoming cocky?

The congratulations emails were arriving in every 30 seconds, filling my already close-to-capacity inbox. News of my promotion appeared on a post in the employee news intranet site. I’d been doing my best to work with excellence for 3 years; taking stretch assignments to grow my skillset, volunteering to coordinate team building events, giving a helping hand to my peer’s projects whenever I could. Now I was on the receiving end of a hearty disbursement of company stock, a generous pay increase, and a public acknowledgement of my work.

For the next few days, I couldn’t conclude a conference call without hearing a colleague’s cheerful, “You know you deserve it, right?” or “How does it feel to land the big promotion?” Their enthusiasm was appreciated but had some unexpected results. Hearing my name and my accomplishments revered over and over was making me a bit uncomfortable. I was running out of ideas on how to respond with my humility intact. Do I keep saying, “thanks” with an awkward look on my face? Do I redirect the compliment by telling them how great they are and how they should get a promotion too? Do I just tell the truth and say, “yeah, I’m super happy about getting more money every two weeks”?

How does a faithful professional manage the line between confidence and cockiness?

Learn to Take a Compliment

It’s funny that this is something that has to be learned by most people (especially me), but it is. The first thing we must do is accept that there is nothing inherently arrogant about accepting a compliment. Having a good reputation before men is something God gives as a gift to the faithful (Proverbs 3:3-4). And what do we do when we receive a gift? We say thank you…graciously. How do we this? (1) Look the person in the eye (remember – there’s no shame in taking a compliment). (2) say “thank you”, simply and sincerely. (3) Conclude with a personal acknowledgement, such as, “that means a lot coming from you” or “that’s very kind of you”. In this way, we can graciously receive a compliment and graciously give one at the same time.

Don’t Confuse Religiosity for Humility

It can be tempting to be super-spiritual as a way to ward off cockiness. I confess, there was a time, when I would respond to every compliment, “All praise belongs to God” or something like it. The problem wasn’t acknowledging God. For a Christian, giving God praise in everything is a part of living, like breathing. My problem was the heart behind why I was doing it. I mistakenly thought it would somehow be treated as proof that I was a humble person. I finally learned that truly humble people don’t have to prove anything. Their humility is how they walk, not just how they talk (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Check What’s Driving Your Excellence

Doing our jobs with excellence is part of the work ethic God designed for His people. But one of the common roots of cockiness can be found in the motives for our excellence.  If we work with excellence, driven by sincere gratitude to God for providing our job and giving us the skills to do that job well then we will be confident that God will allow us to prosper, according to His will (Colossians 3:23-24). On the contrary, if we work with excellence, driven by the belief that the exercise of our skillset is solely for the purpose of fulfilling our personal ambitions then we will be cocky that our efforts entitle us to prosper, according to our will. This is why cocky people are often the most discontent people. They feel so entitled to everything that they aren’t satisfied with anything.

Words for Syncing

Confident Not Cocky

Sync a little deeper…

What makes it hard for you to take a compliment?

What “super-spiritual” things have you said in an attempt to appear humble?

What are some indicators that you may be working with a sense of entitlement?

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