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IMPOSTER SYNDROME IN THE WORKPLACe

Imposter syndrome can hold us back in our careers; it prevents us from acknowledging our achievements and accepting praise, causes self-doubt and insecurity and often leads to burnout. This blog explains some of the major features and causes of imposter syndrome and provides tips and advice for how employers can take steps to make their employees feel more welcome, appreciated, and valued.

It is estimated that around 70% of us will experience imposter syndrome at least once in our lives. If you have Imposter Syndrome, you may feel as though your achievements are not real or valid, and that you are not worthy of professional success, or praise from your peers and colleagues. You may also feel as though you are not good enough or intelligent enough to do your job. Most of us experience feelings like these at certain points during our lives, especially when starting a new job or a new role.


However, these feelings of self-doubt can seriously impact the way we view ourselves and our abilities and can prevent us from reaching our full potential.


Self-doubt, insecurity, and imposter syndrome are common in the workplace. During the past year of coaching on the Developing Diverse Leaders Programme, my experience was that women, particularly women of colour, were more likely to experience it than their male counterparts.


Women of colour are almost always underrepresented in the workplace, specifically in management-level positions, and this lack of role models has a major impact on making marginalised communities feel as though they do not belong in certain fields and professions.


Experiencing frequent bias and micro-aggressions in the workplace can wear down your self-confidence and make you doubt your skill and intelligence, despite your achievements. For underrepresented groups, it can often feel as though you have to work harder than others in order to prove your worth and show that you are deserving of your position.


But what can we do to tackle imposter syndrome in the workplace?

  • Talk to people you trust about how you are feeling. You could arrange to speak to your manager about it or speak to a friend or colleague more informally. Speaking about your feelings with others may be to help reassure you and reduce your doubt.

  • Recognise your achievements; think about how your skills, experience and qualifications have led to where you are now. Be joyful about small acts of kindness to others such as listening.

  • Managers can help their employees to overcome feelings of self-doubt by emphasising their belief in their skills and abilities and expressing their support.

  • It’s important for managers with employees from marginalised and underrepresented backgrounds to understand the ways in which institutional bias and discrimination can cause and reinforce imposter syndrome. Acknowledging these challenges allows managers to better support their employees.

Further reading: BBC Equality Matters “Why imposter syndrome hits women and women of colour harder”

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