Confidence & Business

The purpose of this essay is to discuss the concepts of confidence and self-esteem, both in relation to psychological theory, as well as business. While belonging to an entirely different faculty, the two areas of study - psychology and commerce - do come together in such core disciplines to management students as organizational behaviour and industrial psychology. Thus, some of the scientific findings are discussed, as well as, their implication for success in today’s business world.

Leadership and business communication classes often emphasize the importance of confidence and belief in one’s abilities, or self-confidence. Indeed, in sales and marketing, people who tend to be more confident may have an easier time selling their products and closing deals than their more modest counterparts. Indeed, the human factor and perception are such, that at times, during job interviews, more qualified candidates are overlooked in favour of less qualified ones, simply because of self-presentation skills and confidence. However, overconfidence is at the other extreme, leading some financial traders to invest in losing venues.

Relatedly, self-esteem represents somewhat of an umbrella term for psychologists across psychology branches. For industrial psychology specialists and psychologists focusing on organizational behaviour, self-esteem is a defining feature in many aspects related to employment paths and choices. For instance, studies have shown that individuals with higher self-esteem tended to chose higher paying and more fulfilling careers than their peers with lower self-esteem levels. Further, psychologists state that self-esteem is relatively stable across the lifespan, but fluctuates with depression. Depression and self-esteem are positively correlated; in other words depression tends to lower self-esteem, and high-esteem in turn protects from depression, even though correlation does not imply causality.

Furthermore, in another study, a group of subjects were asked to look at an array of faces, some of which were neutral, some frowned and some smiled. Interestingly, subjects with high-self esteem tended to notice more smiling faces than participants with low self-esteem, who predominantly paid attention to frowning (perhaps perceived as judgemental) faces. Thus, the finding lends credence to another psychological theory stating that depression is characterized by selective attention, when an individual seems to block out all positive information, and amplifies the negative impressions.

Further, according to personality psychology, self-esteem also has to do with attribution patterns. For example, after failing on an English literature test, one may attribute the failure to internal and rigid traits, such as “I’m a bad student”. Such an attribution is likely to result in less motivation and be hurtful to self-esteem. In sharp contrast, an external and malleable attribution, such as “I could not study because I had to take my poodle to the vet and it was also a hard test. I’ll just apply myself more next time” is likely to protect self-esteem in addition to motivating the arts major to study for the next exam.

On a related note, business students often hear that they must be able to present themselves in a very short period of time, also known as 'the elevator speech'. Such endeavours, as well as, public speaking and commercial presentations are rendered easier and less stressful with higher self-esteem and confidence. Still, public speaking ranks as one of the major fears reported by humans, together with fear of flying and arachnids. Finally, the present paper aims at covering some of the theoretical constructs involved in the discussion of self-confidence and esteem in relation to sales, marketing and as applied to psychology, as scope and space in such a short draft permit.