Overcome Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a term used to describe a psychological phenomenon where an individual doubts his/her own accomplishments and feels undeserving of their successes. It can be experienced by anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. People who suffer from imposter syndrome may feel like their achievements were the result of luck or chance instead of hard work or talent. They often fear that they are inadequate and worry about being exposed as frauds. 

Imposter Syndrome can be exacerbated by feelings of anxiety, stress and pressure to perform. 


Many people feel like they don’t belong in their workplace environment, struggle to receive positive feedback from peers and colleagues, or find themselves constantly comparing their skills with those around them. As a result, they have difficulty accepting praise and believing in their own capabilities.   

People with Imposter Syndrome may resort to self-sabotaging behaviour such as procrastination or lack of assertiveness in order to avoid responsibility for failure. This can lead to further stress and prevent them from achieving goals and reaching desired outcomes at work. It’s important to recognise that Imposter Syndrome is not a sign of incompetence; rather it is an internal process that can be overcome.   

If you’re struggling with Imposter Syndrome, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone – many people experience this type of anxiety at some point in their lives. The good news is there are strategies you can use to cope with these feelings including seeking support, avoiding avoidance, self-care, positive self-talk, mindfulness, yoga and seeking professional support. With the right resources and support network in place, you can start to build your confidence and reach your career goals. You’ve worked too hard to feel like a fraudster!  

Why do We Experience Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome has the potential to cause immense stress and anxiety for individuals and can impact a business’ overall performance and morale. There are several key factors that contribute to its development and perpetuation.   

Firstly, Imposter Syndrome is largely attributed to an individual’s comparison of their own perceived successes or failures with those around them. People often measure themselves against their colleagues or peers in terms of job performance, qualifications, or even salary. People tend to overestimate the abilities of others whilst underestimating their own capabilities, which can lead people to feel less than.   

Secondly, society has long placed emphasis on perfectionism and success – which can create an unrealistic expectation in the minds of many individuals. This can manifest as Imposter Syndrome when one fails to live up to these expectations due to lack of confidence or fear of failure.   

Another key factor is our tendency to discount any successes we do achieve. We are often quick to attribute our successes to luck or chance rather than recognising our own hard work, skill and determination; this further compounds feelings of insecurity and doubt surrounding our capabilities at work.   

Finally, Imposter Syndrome also arises when we fail to recognise our unique strengths. If we believe that everyone has abilities superior to ours, then feelings of inferiority can rise. This can be especially detrimental for people who face discrimination for any reason such as race, gender identity, sexual orientation etc., as it reinforces negative beliefs about oneself despite actual capability and competency at work tasks being equal amongst all employee groups.   

The combination of factors mentioned creates an environment where self-doubt flourishes – leading people towards an imposter cycle of feeling insecure despite actually being highly capable within their field of work.  

Why are Some People More Prone to Experiencing Imposter Syndrome than Others?

Despite being highly successful, those who suffer from Imposter Syndrome are plagued by self-doubt and feelings of not belonging, believing they have somehow “fooled” their employers or colleagues into hiring or promoting them.   

Though it is unclear why some people are more prone to experiencing Imposter Syndrome than others, research has suggested there are a few key factors that may contribute to its development. One of the most prominent is perfectionism; individuals who set extremely high standards for themselves and their work tend to be more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome, as even minor mistakes can lead to feelings of failure. In addition, people with a tendency towards self-criticism may be at higher risk for Imposter Syndrome, as they can be overly critical of themselves when evaluating their work or performance. Finally, those with an inclination towards external validation may also be more prone to feel like imposters in the workplace; without constant feedback from supervisors or peers, these individuals may feel unworthy or undeserving of success.   

Adverse childhood experiences and cultural influences can also play a significant role in the development of imposter syndrome. It is also important to remember that everyone experiences times of doubt and insecurity – even those who do not have Imposter Syndrome – so it is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed by tasks occasionally.   

Ultimately, recognising the inherent risk factors associated with developing imposter syndrome will help employers better support their staff who show signs of this condition. Developing appropriate mental health initiatives within a company such as stress management training can help support employees and reduce imposter syndrome. Taking proactive steps in creating a secure and supportive environment within any organisation could make all the difference. 

How does Imposter Syndrome Impact Performance?

Studies have found that employees who suffer from imposter syndrome often adopt behaviours which reduce their productivity, such as procrastination, perfectionism or overworking. The fear of failure can also be immensely powerful in these situations; causing employees to take fewer risks and avoid challenging tasks that could help them to develop professionally. It is also common for individuals with imposter syndrome to remain silent in meetings or to avoid entering into conversations with colleagues they perceive to be more knowledgeable than themselves. This level of social anxiety has been linked to lower engagement and job satisfaction levels among workers.   

The impact of imposter syndrome on wellbeing is another important consideration. Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity can cause stress, fatigue, loneliness, and depression – all of which hinder performance at work. Those who suffer from imposter syndrome may also find it difficult to ask for help when needed; leading them further away from reaching their full potential within the working environment. 

It is essential that employers recognise the signs of imposter syndrome among their staff; particularly those in positions where decision making is required or those who are responsible for achieving certain targets. Employers should strive to create an open and supportive culture where workers feel comfortable discussing issues related to imposter syndrome without fear of judgement or ridicule. Promoting inclusion and celebrating diverse backgrounds is also key for helping employees feel valued for who they are rather than what they do; reducing the likelihood of them doubting their own abilities due to comparisons with peers being made in the workplace.   

Ultimately, overcoming imposter syndrome requires individuals to gain an understanding of how it affects both your personal and professional life; recognising how destructive it can be if left unchecked and learning techniques that can be used to manage its effects more effectively.  

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How can Individuals Overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. The first step to overcoming Imposter Syndrome is to identify it for what it is: a feeling, not a fact. Thoughts and feelings change all the time, and they do not need to dictate your life. 

2. The second step is being mindful of the need for reassurance. Whilst assurance that you are doing well can feel helpful, constant reassurance is actually a safety behaviour, and it perpetuates anxiety as you believe your anxiety only decreases because of the external validation. However, your anxiety would not have been endless regardless. Talking about non-work-related topics can help shift one’s focus away from worried thoughts, and engaging others in conversations can help you to get a break from your thoughts for a time.  

3. The third step towards overcoming Imposter syndrome is learning how to manage stress before becoming overwhelmed. Stress management techniques such as therapeutic breathing exercises, yoga or meditation can help reduce feelings of anxiety associated with imposter syndrome. Allowing employees time each day to tend to their stresses allows them to come back ready to tackle whatever tasks lie ahead of them refreshed and recharged – instead of drained and exhausted – like they would if they continued to push themselves. 

4. Fourth, use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are capable and successful at what you do. Acknowledge your successes, however big or small they may be. Highlighting the skills you possess, and accomplishments achieved can help build self-confidence and challenge negative thinking patterns associated with Imposter Syndrome. 

Finally, setting realistic goals for oneself will help manage expectations around performance instead of expecting perfection, which is unachievable and reinforces imposter syndrome. This can lead to greater satisfaction when you achieve your set goals and provide evidence against your anxious thoughts.  

Normalising Anxiety

By recognising Imposter Syndrome for what it is – just another feeling – individuals can take strides towards overcoming it through identifying successes both big and small, reaching out for support from friends or family members, managing stress levels proactively, as well as setting realistic goals on a daily basis  With commitment and dedication, individuals suffering from Imposter Syndrome will find relief whilst still achieving great success professionally!  

How can Managers Support Employees with Imposter Syndrome

Managers play a critical role in recognising the signs of Imposter Syndrome in their staff and understanding how to effectively support them.   

Firstly, managers should be aware of signs such as an employee’s sudden lack of confidence, fear of failure or criticism, or feeling that they are not as competent as others even when presented with evidence to the contrary. Managers should make employees feel valued and respected, giving them positive feedback when warranted, and providing clear guidance on expectations.  

Managers should also provide opportunities for employees with Imposter Syndrome to build skills and gain more experience in order to develop greater self-confidence. Examples could include assigning them more challenging projects or encouraging networking with colleagues in order to broaden their knowledge base. This could help the employee develop a sense of ownership towards their work while also providing them with necessary tools they need to succeed.   

Providing access to mental health resources in the form of time out to attend counselling or therapy can serve as an invaluable outlet for those affected by Imposter Syndrome to address their feelings and develop strategies for overcoming it.   

Finally, employers should create an open dialogue between themselves and any team members struggling with imposter syndrome where employees are given permission to express what they’re going through without judgement or fear of repercussions. By taking the time to understand both the source of the problem and how it affects individual performance, managers can better equip themselves with strategies for helping individuals manage any symptoms associated with imposter syndrome.   


Overcoming imposter syndrome in the workplace is a journey of self-reflection, understanding, and growth. It takes time to identify one’s own skills and talents, as well as to develop the confidence and internal strength needed to succeed. While this can be a difficult process, it is ultimately rewarding when done right.   

The first step in overcoming imposter syndrome is to recognise that it exists and that it is not an uncommon feeling; many people experience it. It is then important to take active steps to address the issue by building up positive self-talk and self-belief. Practicing mindfulness, setting realistic goals, asking for help from trusted colleagues when needed, and taking breaks from work are all helpful coping strategies.   

Finally, seeking professional help can be invaluable in dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome in the workplace. Talking openly about one’s feelings with a therapist can provide much-needed support and additional perspective on how best to deal with these everyday challenges.   

By acknowledging the issues at hand and making a conscious effort to take control of them, individuals can overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace and reach their full potential. With resilience and determination, everyone has the capacity to succeed despite any doubts they may have along the way.  

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