Imposter Syndrome: A real bogeyman for the upwardly mobile honchos

Imposter syndrome is tied up with self-value. If you measure your self-worth by how hard you work, your education, and how far you have made it in your career, then self-doubt is sure to creep in. Along with these self-defining measures, one needs a critical criterion — NOT to doubt one’s value in an organization and how to perceive oneself, adding value and contributing to the job and the organization.

Most working professionals suffer from self-doubt at some time in their career. Maya Angelou, poet and author and a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award nominee, once said about herself, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now! I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”

If a voice in your head continually questions your achievements, then you have the imposter syndrome. Studies have found that over 70% of people will report experiencing imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.

Imposter Syndrome At Work

Business, work. People in the office


Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome was first described in the late 70s by researchers Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes when they observed female graduates feeling inadequate and undeserving of success in their careers. LeadMD recently surveyed 600 people to find the presence of Imposter Syndrome in the workplace. Here are a few of the insights:

The research found 3 out of 4 people, were unaware of what Imposter Syndrome was. The topic has been discussed and written about much recently, especially in the feminist context. Still, it was surprising that women were just as likely as men to say they weren’t sure about Imposter Syndrome.

  • 1 in 5 women reported pressured to stay at work longer than other colleagues to prove their commitment
  • Over 60% of those surveyed answered that that people perceived them to be more competent than they actually were at work.
  • Nearly half of women felt their career progress was undeserving of their work input!
  •  Men are also more likely to report imposter syndrome and are pressured to work longer in the office
  • Around 50% of Millennials say that they say or think their success was luck at least sometimes. In fact, over 40% of Generation X respondents also felt t the same. Baby Boomers are 20% more likely than the other two generations to say that they never feel like their success is due to luck.

Reasons for Imposter Syndrome 

It is mainly due to lack of awareness, general performance anxiety, the fear of losing one’s job, and the always-on pressure to do better than others.

With technology changing quickly in today’s digital age, performance anxiety doubles. Most people struggle to keep up with the changes. Along with that is the fear of redundancy with most jobs facing competition from the hi-tech being introduced in the work-life daily.

So what can be done to avoid the imposter syndrome and to handle it better?

Liz Forkin Bohannon (Founder of Sseko Designs) says own your average. This allows you to accept that you cannot excel at everything. Success requires you to work hard and fast, and your journey will be about mistakes, learnings and your failures, and below-average performance does not define you.

Curiosity: Be curious. That will allow you to move forwards and achieve success. Curiosity leads to questioning and acquiring knowledge to answer the questions.

Offer encouragement and advice to employees: Promote an atmosphere of mentoring and openness. Make it clear that the hierarchy is there for help and feedback and not to ensure compliance and evoke fear. Constantly check in with the employees and flag any inefficiencies.

Be open and talk of the imposter syndrome: Acknowledge the elephant in the room. The more one moves up the ladder; it is likely that the employee is bound to question his or her relevance and develop self-doubt.

Use your self-doubt as a positive tool rather than a hindrance. Equip yourself and prepare better to deal with the position you are in. Be creative, curious and collaborative.

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Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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