Worklife Blues: Self-Esteem Among Adults at Work

Low self-esteem is when someone lacks confidence about who they are and what they can do. When we think about individuals who suffer from low self-esteem, we tend to think of teenagers. However, this is not the case. So many adults struggle with low self-esteem. This can manifest in so many different ways, but when it comes to your work, low-esteem can impact your enjoyment, your relationships, and your performance. 

Work-life blues are, sadly, inevitable among adults. The stress of a high-pressured environment, a looming deadline or office politics can all affect our mental health at work. However, for adults who struggle with low self-esteem, the problems are often more deep-rooted.

Whilst low self-esteem isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it can either lead to, or be a result of, mental health problems. Many people who suffer with anxiety or depression also experience low self-esteem. These issues are pervasive and are difficult to confine to our home lives, it often impacts our working life. There is more demand than ever before for each workplace to have a comprehensive, employee-based mental health programme. 

Some Statistics:

1:4 people in England struggle with mental health each year. Whereas 1:68 people report struggling with a common mental health condition each week. Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence is attributable to mental health.

The Governments Health and Safety Executive Annual Statistics for 2020, when reporting on Work-Related Stress, Anxiety and Depression showed:

  • There are 828,000 workplace sufferers
  • Up to 17.9 million lost workdays lost, equating to 21.6 days per case
  • 51% of all work-related ill-health
  • It is responsible 55% of all work-related absence

Work-related self-esteem issues are prevalent, however, we are often unaware of how severe this can get for people at work. There is an unspoken pressure in the work environment to always be achieving and to be the best. These kinds of pressures make people anxious about admitting that they are struggling. 

Here are some factors that contribute to low self-esteem in the workplace:


Many of us are driven by incentives. The competition to work towards the bonus, to become ’employee of the month’, or to manage that big project. However, the thin line that is healthy competition in the workplace can quickly cross over into being toxic and damaging. Many in positions of leadership may believe that competition can increase production, and achieve results. However, the most common result is stress, anxiety, and burnout amongst employees. 

A healthy workplace is paramount for having good self-esteem at work and a healthy relationship with your job/employer. Competition can switch this balance so quickly. If this competition means that one employee’s success reflects badly on their co-workers, then this will inevitably create a hostile and tense working environment. This can become mentally disruptive and have damaging effects on any individual in the workplace.

However, for people who already struggle with confidence issues, imposter syndrome, or other mental health concerns, this kind of environment can be a real trigger.

Lack of motivation

There are many factors that make an employee unmotivated at work. These could include your salary, working environment, workload, value mismatch (i.e. I just don’t care enough to do this). However, one pervasive cause of lack of motivation is low self-esteem.

 A deep-rooted belief that we are not good enough, means that sometimes it’s easier to just not try than it is to risk trying and failing. 

In the workplace, this fear is often wrapped up in believing that you are unable to succeed, that you don’t have the necessary skills, time, or energy to get a task completed. 

Imposter syndrome can make many employees feel too scared to reach out to other colleagues/management for fear of being found out as a fraud, or that they shouldn’t have been given the job. However, reaching out and sharing your concerns can allow your team to support you, challenge your concerns, and bolster your confidence.

Degrading Work Relationships 

Positive work relationships are vital for our mental health. For most of us, we spend 35+ hours of our week with our colleagues. This accounts for the majority of our waking hours, because of this, it is so important to connect with the people we work with. Individuals who identify strongly with their work colleagues have a greater psychological well-being, as well as improved physical health.  

It is common to have some colleagues you prefer more than others, after all, everyone has a different understanding of workplace ethics or what leadership is, even if you all agree with the mission of your company. Many of us can cope with not ‘getting on’ with everybody. 

However, some negative working relationships can be extreme and have damaging effects. Whether these relationships are between individuals, groups of people, or management, they can cause a dread of going to work, a struggle to get through the day, and often result in resignation. For some individuals, it is too much and it can have a fatal impact on their mental health. A recent study showed that in the UK, over 250 people die by suicide annually due to work-related issues. 

Communication Issues

One vital part of a healthy work environment is communication. When employees do not feel listened to by leadership, then this can create a negative atmosphere at work. Not being heard can have a negative impact upon self-esteem. Employees may not feel valued, or simply feel taken for granted.

There could also be communication issues between colleagues. When people don’t talk openly with each other, this can also create tension within a team. It could create divisions, people talking behind others’ backs, or even bullying. This can make work feel incredibly uncomfortable and can have serious implications for one’s self-esteem.

Where to Get Professional Help to Improve Self-Esteem

If you’re an employee wanting to improve your self-esteem at work, or an employer wanting the best mental health program for your team, we are here to help. You may have experienced those things above in your workplace but we can help you build your self-esteem back. You matter to us.

For self-esteem, we help our clients to work on the aspects of identifying low self-esteem triggers and effective intervention methods to boost self-esteem. There’s always compassion and understanding in what we do. If you want to book a session, click here


Ian Stockbridge
Owner and lead counsellor of Hope Therapy & Counselling Services. Ian draws upon various approaches including CBT, Person-Centred Counselling and Mindfulness.

To book a session with Ian or one of the Hope Team, just get in touch.

Mobile: 07379538411

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