Relational Confidence: Theorizing the Process and Mechanisms of Validation in the Workplace
Current conceptualizations of confidence are characterized by being individual, static, and masculinized. By focusing on self-beliefs, existing constructs present a problematic framework to intervene in women’s (lower) self-confidence as asserted in the popular literature. We offer a different way of understanding confidence in the workplace, and propose a new construct—relational confidence—that takes into consideration the dynamic, contextual and interactive nature of confidence. Instead of singularly viewing women as needing to project more self-confidence behaviors, for example in applying for leadership positions, the notion of relational confidence highlights the importance of interpersonal relationships and working with the organizational system to address issues in women’s confidence. We discuss the mechanisms of relational confidence, how confidence occurs in the interaction between the self and others, and not just as an internal property of the self. We describe the process of workplace validation that emerges from projecting and endorsing between the self and others at three levels: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and system validation. We conclude by offering thoughts for future research and implications for women’s confidence in the workplace.