Imposter Syndrome – the feeling that our successes and achievements are attributed to luck and not because of our skillset or expertise – is a term we are hearing more often these days. It is said that 70% of people experience, will experience or experienced it at some point in their careers and despite all the attention it seems to be getting nowadays, this figure does not seem to be in decline. In fact, many believe it to be much higher.
But is imposter syndrome really a problem? A great deal of people who have it are very successful high achievers. Oscar winning actors, famous musicians and successful businesspeople have all admitted to feeling like a fraud, to believing that they just got where they are through luck, and they’ll be found out at some point. But it didn’t stop them doing well so why worry about it, right? Well… wrong.
Imposter Syndrome carries with it self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy and a persistent fear of failure. It can give rise to either procrastination or overworking on tasks and projects, a crippling lack of self-confidence and burnout. In short, it is detrimental to the wellbeing and happiness of our workforce. People with imposter syndrome can suffer increased mental health issues, poor interpersonal relationships and often fail to put themselves forward for promotion or new challenges, for fear they will fail
And what about Imposter syndrome at work; can employers do anything about it? Quite often, people plagued with imposter syndrome carry a lot of shame about it and won’t want to admit how they are really feeling. There are some things, however, that managers can do to support their employees who are experiencing imposter syndrome.
Educate yourself first
You may have an idea of what imposter syndrome is, but do you know how to spot the signs? Some common signs include the aforementioned procrastination or overworking, but also, notice if your employees have a tendency to brush off or dismiss praise or attribute their successes to luck, other people or some external factor. Have they neglected to put themselves forward for a project or promotion that you felt sure they were ready for? Do they over prepare for tasks? By understanding the signs, you are better equipped to notice what’s going on and offer support.
Share your story
People with imposter syndrome often think that they are the only ones feeling the way they do. They compare themselves to others and feel they will never live up to that standard. The truth is, we have all experienced challenges and difficulties in our careers. You can help your teams by sharing your stories, your failures and how you turned them around and learned from them. Share your success stories that perhaps involved journeys tinged with self-doubt. It is incredibly helpful for imposters to hear that the feelings they are experiencing aren’t unusual and only felt by them and that they don’t last forever.
Review your inclusion policy
While imposter syndrome can be felt by anyone, it is often experienced by minority members of the workforce and can be exacerbated by a lack of diversity and fewer relatable role models. Imposters feel they don’t belong or aren’t accepted, so it’s important that the work environment doesn’t enhance these feelings. Focus on your inclusion agenda to ensure positive feelings of group identity. Ensure you and your teams attend diversity and inclusion training and monitor any diversity issues amongst staff.
Review your culture
Does your company promote a culture where employees feel they can openly and honestly discuss their feelings? It is vital to create a safe space where people can share their imposter experiences with each other. This will increase their sense of belonging, which is naturally very weak in people with Imposter Syndrome. Imposters usually feel they are the only ones who feel the way they feel, that everyone around them is confident, successful and seems to have it all together.
When companies destigmatise conversations of Imposter Syndrome, they help dispel the myth that they are the only ones and support them to have a stronger sense of belonging at work. Another area of organisation culture that can be damaging for self-esteem and Imposter Syndrome is competition. In an extremely competitive culture, a culture where long hours and the biggest wins reap all the praise and rewards, there is a risk of an increase in cases of Imposter Syndrome and a decrease in employee wellbeing. Take time to look at your company’s culture and ask yourself, ‘what does it promote?’
Educate your workforce
Imposters often believe they have no one to turn to, no understanding that their feelings have a name and that work can be done to combat those feelings. Often, it is a relief to hear that they are experiencing Imposter Syndrome, which brings with it a realisation that they are most certainly not alone. Put signs up highlighting where to find more information or support on Imposter Syndrome so employees can educate themselves and begin to make positive steps to change their self-belief and acknowledge their strengths, skills and achievements.
It’s important to know that Imposter Syndrome isn’t something that will disappear quickly or even forever, but with awareness, tools and coping strategies the imposter’s voice can be silenced quickly and your employee’s wellbeing, work satisfaction and productivity greatly improved.
For more information on our webinar Overcoming Imposter Syndrome – visit our webinar options page, here.