This post originally appeared on Forbes on August 1, 2023.
Confidence theater — which is putting on an appearance of being confident regardless of how one actually feels — can dominate some corporate cultures and generate a lot of attention. It makes sense that there would be pressure to appear confident despite the circumstances because we often conflate confidence with success. When this becomes problematic is that confidence theater allows those who are most vocal to govern — whether they are qualified to do so or not. After all, confidence is not a proxy for the validity of one's judgment and decision-making.
"I think for employees, when they have to demonstrate confidence theater, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable because that's not who they are. This is particularly difficult for people who may be more thoughtful and want time to think about something. They may feel very pressured to appear in command," says Peter Atwater, author of the just-released book The Confidence Map.