Ways to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome Tick HR

It’s estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome during their lifetime.

Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough to do the job you’ve been hired to do and that your boss might figure it out at any moment? Do you feel that you have to work hard every day just to keep up with expectations that you think others have of you? 

Imposter phenomenon was first described in a 1978 research paper by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness” prevalent in the group of particularly high-achieving women they were studying. But the word “syndrome” was conspicuously absent from their paper, as was any mention of the possibility that men might experience the same feeling.

Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck.

Imposter feelings represent a conflict between your own self-perception and the way others perceive you.

Some common signs that may show you’re struggling with imposter syndrome:

  • You feel that you are a fake.
  • You think that you just get lucky.
  • You believe that anyone could do what you do.
  • You think you’ve succeeded just because of having help.
  • You believe your connections are why you have gotten to the level that you are at.
  • You think people are just nice to you when complimenting you and that they don’t really mean to be.
  • You struggle with being a perfectionist.
  • You believe failure is not OK.
  • You discredit your achievements.
  • You are reluctance to ask for help
  • You turn down new opportunities
  • You second-guess decisions
  • You overwork to the point of burnout to prove you’re “enough”
  • You fail to start or finish projects

Overcoming imposter syndrome.

  • Separate your feelings from facts – when you feel imposter syndrome creeping in, observe and be mindful and be ready to respond. Recognise that because you think these things, it doesn’t mean they are true.
  • Note your accomplishments – if you receive an email from work praising you for your work on a project, keep this email as a reminder.
  • Talk – chat to someone who knows you and can support you. Talk to a therapist or counsellor who can help you recognise your feelings and help you create new behaviours.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others – focus on measuring your own achievements instead of holding them up against others’. Comparing your own life to a carefully curated influencer’s social media feed, for example, can be a trap to make you feel that you don’t measure up.

What can leaders do to counteract imposter syndrome?

The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals, but to create an environment that fosters a number of different leadership styles and where diversity of racial, ethnic, and gender identities are viewed as just as professional as the current model.

You need to create a space for candid conversations where people feel comfortable speaking up without fear of being attacked as incompetent.

You could –

  • Make it safe to ask for help.
  • Give them credit when it’s due.
  • Allow the employee to be the decision maker.
  • Leverage strengths-based assessments.
  • Offer specific positive affirmation.
  • Help coach them through it.
  • Recognise their strengths and hard work.
  • Tell them exactly what they’re doing right.
  • Assign them a mentor.
  • Encourage the employee to build up their external network.
  • Examine your own beliefs about your employees.
  • ‘See’ and acknowledge your employees.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to talk more about this subject.



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