Imposter syndrome at work

Mar 12, 2022
help managers reduce imposter syndrome at work

Imposter syndrome is when you think to yourself “I’m a total fraud and I’m going to be found out” and it can affect up to 70% of workers during their career. You can find out more about what imposter syndrome is and how it shows up here. In this short post, how to help others who are suffering from imposter syndrome at work.


Imposter syndrome can leave employees with a fear of speaking up and sharing their ideas, in case they look like the total fraud they believe they are. This in turn can make it seem like their voice or opinions are not being heard and don’t matter to the organisation. 


One way to address this is to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard - make sure that people are frequently asked for their opinions, that there is roughly equal “share of voice” during meetings (that it’s not being dominated by an extrovert for example), and above all, that people feel like their ideas are valued and there is a safe space in which to share them.


Another sign of imposter syndrome is overworking. As ‘imposters’ people believe they somehow need to overcompensate for the fact that they are ‘imposters’ and therefore have a tendency to work longer hours, to be seen to be working hard, staying longer in the office (“presenteeism”). 


A way to tackle this - and this is something that should be done regularly by managers and people leaders anyway - is to provide regular feedback on performance. You can focus on the positive areas of performance in order to address issues of imposterism, and don’t wait to be asked to provide feedback, proactively share it. Learn more about how to deliver effective feedback here.


Another way to address the issue of overwork is to clearly define the outcomes that are required in the role. This includes relating the objectives of the individual to the team objectives, the overall company objectives, and being really clear about what “good enough” looks like, and how much time should be spent on specific projects.


One of the underlying beliefs when experiencing imposter syndrome is “I don’t belong here” - people feel out of place, that their peers are better than they are and will potentially judge them for falling short of expectations. Unfortunately when people feel like they don’t belong, or they will be “found out as a fraud” then it’s likely that they will resign from the organisation rather than be found out.


Create an inclusive environment, where everyone feels like they are important, reiterate the contribution they are making, and also carry out team-building activities to get to know one another outside of the work environment. Crucial to our sense of belonging is being aware of our core values - share the organisational core values at the beginning of all meetings, and ask people to share examples of how the values show up in their day-to-day work.

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