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The Dangers Of Imposter Syndrome In the Workplace

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Do you feel like you deserve the role you are in? You would be surprised how many people secretly think they don't. According to the jobs website Seek, 51% of women and 47% of men have suffered from imposter syndrome in the workplace.

Imposter syndrome is the internal feeling that you are a fraud, that you are not worthy or qualified to be in the position you’re in, and somehow someone will find out. Often this syndrome affects people in high-level positions, leadership and management roles or high-stress roles. They applied for these positions or were promoted to them, and they are convinced they’re not qualified or not suitable for the job, even if they are.

The Entourage has worked with many business owners and business leaders who've gone through these exact feelings and through the help of people like our business coaches, we’ve given our Members the skills and the courage to own their roles and thrive past any feelings of imposter syndrome.

What does imposter syndrome look like in the workplace?

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who tells others that they are suffering from imposter syndrome. On the surface, they could look like they're thriving, but underneath the surface, they could be feeling anxious with a negative internal dialogue. Here are six common forms of how imposter syndrome could show up in the workplace.

The perfectionist

A perfectionist is not happy unless their work is perfect. The problem is, nothing is ever perfect, and they know this. They will keep working on something, and when it is finished, they will stress that someone else will find out it isn’t perfect. Since the work is not perfect, this means the creator isn’t perfect either.

This train of thought can drag that person down until nothing is ever good enough.

The workaholics

This type of 'imposter' overcompensates for their perceived lack of talent by over-committing to work. If they can do a lot of work, then the team will be impressed by the volume. And perhaps, in all that work, something of value will be produced. This often results in mental and physical burnout.

The genius

A natural genius often relied a lot on talent to get ahead. Now they feel the pressure to continue to succeed through talent alone. When you’re in a bigger organisation, with more checks and balances, they can feel the pressure to perform.

The lone wolf

These people believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, and they don’t want to appear weak. They also struggle to ask for help, because if they did, others would think they’re not good at their job.

The expert

Even though this person knows a lot about their subject, they still feel inadequate. They fear that one day someone will ask them a question they don’t know the answer to, and hence they’re not good enough.

Racial imposter syndrome

This is an instance where someone's own sense of self doesn't match other's perception of their racial or ethnic identity.

People who are of a distinct racial heritage, but are born in another country, can have this issue, as well as those with mixed heritage. This can lead to identity crises and challenges when faced with trying to find a sense of belonging in a workplace.

How are people affected at work by imposter syndrome?

As managers and business leaders, you need to be aware of people who suffer from imposter syndrome. It can have negative impacts on the individuals mentally and potential impact your business as well. However, as mentioned, it's often hard to tell who may be suffering from imposter syndrome to even start helping them overcome it.

So, what should you look out for in people who are suffering from imposter syndrome?

Negative self-efficacy

People with low self-efficacy tend to avoid difficult tasks, so they don’t appear inept at their duties. They avoid setting goals so they can’t fail them. If they fail at a task, this hits them hard, and they tend to give up.

Biased task-delegation decisions

Biased-based delegation comes in many forms. Are you more biased towards giving women harder tasks than men? Or do younger people get more opportunities than older people?

With imposter syndrome sufferers, this issue can run both ways.

  • Delegating to other people too often in order to cover for their own perceived inadequacies.
  • Delegating to people who aren’t up to the task, so they can artificially inflate their own competence.

Low motivation to lead

If a person doesn't believe in their own skills and abilities, then they will not want to be a leader. This would put them in the spotlight, and of course, everyone would find out! They would be sabotaging their own career, which they could very well be qualified for, through their own self-doubt.

Low job satisfaction

The cycle of negative self-talk can burden a person with imposter syndrome. They feel they don’t deserve the position they’re in, or that they are not capable of the role they have. This impacts their job, their output and the business.

These feelings of not being good enough also drags down on their job satisfaction. A snowball effect of not enjoying their job and not feeling like they deserve their position, could happen, with negative consequences.

Poor organisational behaviour

Being organised is a trait of people with confidence and foresight. People can organise their workday, their schedule and put things in priority of importance.

If someone has imposter syndrome, they doubt themselves, they doubt the processes and struggle to reliably organise work. They don't know which task is more important, how long it would take, and which one they should do first.

Imposter syndrome is a complicated beast, and can trip up many different aspects of a professional’s life.

Defective commitment

How can someone commit to a company or a project when they believe they don't deserve to be there? Best to quit before someone finds out the 'truth'.

Or they try not to commit to something. This is a projection of failure that they feel will happen. They know they will fail, so why commit to a project, or something big?

5 strategies to beat imposter syndrome in the workplace

Imposter syndrome can eat away at your employees and really bring your company down. But you can do something about it as the leader of the company. You can help those afflicted by this and help them believe they are the awesome people they actually are.

Avoid comparison

Often when you compare yourself to others, you will come off second best. If you try a new hobby, you research how to do it and see all these people who are so much better than you. Of course they are, they’ve been doing it longer.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Redefine success

What does success mean? Even in marketing, success can mean different things. A campaign that earned the company $10,000 is a success, but so too is a campaign that attracted 10,000 likes and shares.

Work with the person who doubts themselves. If success this week is writing one article, excellent. When they’ve nailed that, redefine success to writing two articles.

And as per the last point, don’t have them compare themselves to the person over there writing three articles daily.

Record successes

Keep track of the successes that you have defined. When they doubt themselves, they can look back and see they have done this before, and can easily do it again.

You can also track their growth in success, to again show that they are, in fact, worthy of the role.

Having a mentor

Having someone you consider good at what they do, or respected in their field, mentor you, is incredibly powerful.

  • Someone with imposter syndrome can believe they don't have the knowledge for the role. By working with a mentor, they can believe they are gaining knowledge.
  • With the validation of a mentor, you can increase a person’s self-belief and confidence.
  • A mentor is there to answer any question someone may have, and remind them, when they’ve asked the question before, that they, in fact, do know the answer.

Build up the knowledge

By building up the knowledge of the how, what, and the why of things, slowly, a person can believe they are worthy of their role. They can answer questions and be the go-to person.

If you can answer questions correctly because you have attained knowledge, then you'll be able to replace your internal dialogue to a more positive perspective of what the reality is.

How can a business owner overcome imposter syndrome?

However, what happens when the leader of the business suffers from imposter syndrome? Who is there to help them overcome their negative self-talk and any effect that might have on their work and personal life?

That's where The Entourage can come in. Not only do we have a team of business coaches who work with businesses all around Australia, helping them with all areas of their business including marketing, sales, operations, finance, people and product & delivery, but also supporting them with leadership, personal development, consciousness, and challenges like imposter syndrome.

If you or someone you know is suffering from imposter syndrome, then don't wait any longer to get help. Book in a time to chat with our team today in our free 30-minute business Discovery Session to discover how our coaches can help you understand how good you are at what you do, create processes and set goals to achieve your goals while conquering your imposter syndrome.

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