By loose definition, imposter syndrome is a term used when people doubt their abilities, struggling to accept and celebrate their own accomplishments, resulting in feeling like a fraud.

Imposter syndrome is more common than most might think. Therefore, it is beneficial for employers to consider how the condition may be prohibiting employees from reaching their full potential.

What are the signs?

In research conducted in 2014, imposter syndrome was revealed as the largest concern of executives across the globe.

Signs of imposter syndrome include:

  • Failure to accept achievements and accomplishments
  • Fear of being exposed as inexperienced or incompetent
  • Evasion of feedback
  • Hesitancy when asking for support
  • Refusing new opportunities
  • Lack of confidence with decision making
  • Feeling the need to prove yourself
  • Overworking
  • Failing to start or finish projects.

How does it affect the workplace?

The phenomenon appears to be more prevalent in workplaces that thrive on competition and comparison, have poor communication, and lack diversity, leaving workers feeling isolated.

Imposter syndrome can have a significant effect on firms. When talented individuals hold back out of fear, it can lower productivity, increase anxiety, and alter the performance of your business.

What can employers do?

To reduce the risk of imposter syndrome, as well as help those already suffering, employers can take a variety of steps.

  1. Maintain good communication

Employers should explore the benefits of starting a conversation around imposter syndrome. Have open discussions normalising the fears that come with working and succeeding.

Remind employees that not knowing everything doesn’t make you a fraud. Instead, it helps you identify and resolve problems more effectively, innovatively, and collaboratively.

2. Recognise accomplishments

In research by psychologist Carol Dweck, it was revealed that praising work in a more generalised way, such as “you worked really hard on this”, instead of focusing solely on the achievement itself, is the best way to build an employee’s self-esteem.

In turn, this will be effective for keeping imposter syndrome at bay.

3. Promote diversity and inclusion

Everyone should be treated equally at work, as well as given opportunities to speak up and get the support that they need.

Incentives such as diversity training can help decrease the negative effects of unconscious bias and eliminate the sense of feeling like an outsider.

Need advice? Get in touch.