Dealing with Insecure People (Priest/Leadership Resource)

After spending over 35 years working in organizational development and studying workplace psychology, I’ve assisted thousands of individuals to better understand how to navigate tough organizational relationships, especially during times of extraordinary change.  Change can bring out both the best in people but also the worst.

During these times of change, one of the most challenging behavioural types to deal with is highly insecure people. Characteristically, these are the individuals who find comfort in stable and predictable environments. They prefer security and despise changes even though change is a necessity for achievement and advancement in any area of life.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed many teams and organizations as a whole, even, that have failed to reach their full potential or to get themselves out of chaos because of a highly insecure person(s) standing in the way. The first step to preventing things from getting worse is to know how to identify them quickly.

So, to help determine whether you are dealing with a highly insecure person, here are seven common statements that highly insecure people say when they sense that change is coming:

  1. “I don’t have time for this. My other priorities are more important.”

Usually, it’s not that they don’t have enough time; it’s that they don’t know how to manage it effectively. And they rarely have any deliberate or mindful strategies of how to prioritize their tasks.

  1. “I’ve already tried this [or something similar], but it didn’t work.”

This claim is often a complete fabrication. Insecure people don’t try new things. They mostly talk about trying new things at best.

  1. “This is just another way for management to cut jobs.”

Highly insecure people who don’t believe they’re validated and appreciated at work can become paranoid.

They may suspect that someone, most often those in leadership, are out to “get” them.

  1. “This is a stupid idea. Everything is working fine as it is.”

When a highly insecure person has a strong and dismissive reaction to a new initiative, it may be a sign that they realize they will have to put more effort into their work, and they feel threatened by it.

  1. “This might work for others, but it’s not for me.”

Insecure people are big on inflating how unique they are and how special the conditions surrounding their work are.

  1. “Can’t we think of something else? I’m not feeling this.”

This is usually an attempt to stall and completely avoid any real change or improvement. The alternative way the insecure person suggests is usually more or less a continuation of the same behavior. 

  1. “It’s obvious that whoever came up with this idea is clueless about the complexity of my work.”

If a person claims that what they do is too difficult and can’t be comprehended by someone else, it only means that they actually don’t fully understand what they do. Or they may be avoiding being transparent because they have something to hide.

Handling a Highly Insecure Person

The most important thing you can do is to develop a sense of compassion for your insecure colleagues, parishioners or strangers. Having dark, negative thoughts about them won’t ever get you anywhere.

Find a balance between being supportive and exercising tough love. Maintain a sense of positivity and composure, but don’t show that you feel sorry for them. Insecure people often react without any deeper thinking or understanding of what they’re reacting to.

If they only get a comforting response from you, it could make them believe that they are right to be fearful or reactive, and not interrogate why.

Don’t accept excuses. It will only make it easier for them to stay stuck in their ways. Instead, follow this mantra: “An excuse is a claim, and a claim needs to be proven to be true.”

Ask questions that will poke holes in their argument – not to be openly defensive, retaliatory or passively aggressive, but because this will get them to identify what is actually true in this moment. This approach can also help them see that their excuses may be standing in the way of what they can accomplish if they face their fears.

Charles E. Fritz was a giant of modern disaster studies, a field that emerged after World War II brought forth some amazing science.  One of Fritz’s discoveries was that “everyday life is already a disaster of sorts, that we become blind to in ordinary times, one from which actual disaster can liberate us, since it gives each of us the chance to express the best in ourselves and bring about powerful and needed changes.”  The “merging of individual and overall needs” during a disaster, Fritz argued, “has provided a feeling of belonging and a sense of unity rarely achieved under normal circumstances.”

Therefore, we shouldn’t be afraid to let challenging times bring out the best in ourselves, those who work around us and parishioners who are looking for leadership from us all!

Keep in mind, patience, empathy and consistency can gradually replace their insecurity with trust!