Imposter Syndrome, also known as ‘Perceived Fraudulence’, refers to persistent feelings of low self-esteem and personal inadequacy, despite evidence and achievements that prove otherwise.

Those that are struggling with Imposter Syndrome believe that their accomplishments have been a result of luck or chance and can sometimes consider themselves a fraud; playing the role of a successful person instead of recognising that they are indeed the cause of their success.

It is no surprise, therefore, that repeatedly experiencing these feelings of inadequacy takes a monumental toll on a person’s overall emotional wellbeing, leading to heightened anxiety and even depression. Indeed, those that feel undeserving of their responsibility in the workplace will often work themselves into a burnout spiral, which is why it is imperative that this cycle is broken and these feelings of inadequacy are addressed.

Pinpointing the cause of Imposter Syndrome, like any other mental ailment, is never an easy task. Negative childhood experiences, personality traits and/or existing mental health issues could all be at play. However, a recognisable trigger for Imposter Syndrome is a new role or responsibility at work. Therefore, it is important that organisations increase their awareness of this silent syndrome that could be affecting a large proportion of the workforce.

Who can suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

Well, anyone. Even Tom Hanks has discussed his troubles with Imposter Syndrome stating: “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’” So, if you think you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome, you can take comfort knowing that even high-achieving individuals experience feelings of inadequacy.

However, there are certain groups of people who feel the wrath of Imposter Syndrome more than others. It has only been in recent history that women have broken down barriers of inequality; but despite this, the war on sexism in the workplace still rages on. It is no wonder, therefore, that the majority of those experiencing Imposter Syndrome are women who might be subconsciously experiencing residual feelings of inadequacy next to their male peers. Of course, it is not just women who suffer from Imposter Syndrome, it is also particularly prevalent in ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities who face barriers to success and recognition.

How do we overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Cultivating a healthy and inclusive working environment is essential in helping to ease feelings of self-doubt. Here are some key ways to support those dealing with these symptoms of Imposter Syndrome in your workplace:

  • Educating leaders and peers on Imposter Syndrome and its symptoms so those suffering from them can be better understood.
  • Provide easy, non-discriminatory access to mental health support in the workplace. For example, employee assistance programs, counselling, group therapy and bonding exercises, and encourage all employees to use these resources provided.
  • Encourage a feedback culture by regularly recognising and rewarding achievements, and responding to failure in a constructive format, transforming failures into positive opportunities to learn and develop.
  • Break down unhealthy competitiveness between peers and silo working by encouraging collaboration and collective responsibility for success, as well as implementing a culture of support and kindness.
  • Upskill managers to be more approachable and understanding of those that have the courage to voice their concerns.
  • Emphasise inclusion as a core value within the business, letting both employees and clients know that it is a vital element of your organisation.

If you would like to find out more information on Imposter Syndrome and how you can provide support to your employees, please get in touch with our HR experts at Tell Jane by emailing hello@telljane.co.uk.

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