The Effect of Imposter Syndrome In the Workplace

Imposter syndrome is sly, silent, relentless, unachievable perfectionism. Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve a position because you think you don’t have the right skills? Or have you ignored some opportunities because you believe that you won’t match up to its responsibilities? If you’ve ever had a similar thought like that, that’s imposter syndrome in your workplace. 

Look, it’s common to feel this way sometimes, especially when you’re starting a new job or when you’re the only one of different color, age, or gender. But when you experience consistent powerlessness and unworthiness in your workplace, it can harm your job performance. 

Imposter Syndrome in Professionals

When considering this imposter feeling in the context of professionalism, everyone, even the big guys of wall-street can sometimes doubt their abilities.

High achievers may also experience imposter syndrome, especially when receiving a pay increase or moving up the leadership or managerial role. They may feel like they don’t deserve it and that someone will soon find out that they’re not as good as most people portray them to be. 

Impacts in the Workplace 

In the workplace, some causes of feeling like an imposter include: self-generated self-doubt, criticism, and comparison to high-achieving colleagues. These causes can lead to decreased motivation, productivity, increased absenteeism, and difficulty meeting clients’ demands.

With these negative effects, imposter syndrome can impact your employee career progression and cause negativity at work. It can also affect you as an employer if you might think that someone else can do a better job when it comes to running your business.


How does imposter syndrome affect work?

One negative effect of imposter syndrome in the workplace is low job satisfaction and performance. It can also stop you from taking risks at work, seizing new opportunities (such as promotions), and taking on new projects. Over time, you may decide to revise your life goals and become less ambitious, and you may even give up trying.

What percentage of people feel imposter syndrome?

Research shows that about 70% of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome at some stage in their career.

Who is most affected by imposter syndrome?

Women are often affected by imposter syndrome because they don’t see many people of their gender succeeding in the fields they find themselves in. So, there’s no evidence of the possibility of achievement or how they can manage the realities of stereotype, stigma, and oppression to move ahead. Hence, they tend to feel like they don’t belong in these corporate environments.
There’s also this traditional mindset about women and beauty that affects their self-doubt. Most women grow up with the constant reminder that their looks and bodies are important instead of their skills or intelligence. So, in getting a job or position, they wonder if they deserve it or if the hiring manager only thought they were pretty.
People of color also get affected by imposter syndrome because there’s this stereotypical message about them. For instance, women are not good leaders because they’re too emotional. Math or science is only for men and not women. Black, indigenous, and other people of color are lazy, unintelligent, or lack integrity. These messages cause marginalized people to doubt themselves which can also be referred to as racial imposter syndrome.
Also, if you’ve always gotten this message of being less-than or undeserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind imposter syndrome kicks in. And this is what affects most high achievers. 

How Can Imposter Syndrome Be Overcome in the Workplace? 

There has to be a culture of inclusion to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace. So, as a manager, here are five tips to help you with that.

Create a work environment that authentically represents inclusion: People experience imposter syndrome when they notice that their gender, race, or other identity factors are not well represented. And, of course, in the workplace, you can’t have all these factors balanced. This reason is why you need to create an inclusive workplace.

Inclusive workplaces are happier, more productive, and healthier. Plus, it builds employees’ engagement and gives them a sense of belonging. So, no matter the level of achievement they get to, because they feel included, they embrace their authentic selves.  

Stop micromanaging your people: Never play big brother around your employees. Instead, you could delegate their tasks and trust them to do the work well. Give criticism when necessary and appreciate their efforts. 

Don’t Seek Perfection: Nobody is perfect as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Train your employees on their weaknesses, and build on their strengths while giving them the space to grow.

Offer women and people of color equal support and reinforcement: Research has shown that firms with the most diverse and inclusive executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability and 21% likelihood of outperforming their industry competitors. So, developing a diverse team can benefit your company. 

In developing a diverse team, you need to build a support system that makes women and people of color feel that they belong, as this act will increase their sense of possibility of advancement. 

The truth is most women and people of color already have this ambition, determination, and desire for achievement. They only need to feel that they belong and they’re recognized. So, give credit where it’s due, assess potential and not only competence, check with colleagues and peers in the field, especially other women and people of color.

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