How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome at Work and In Business
What Is Corporate Responsibility Towards
part 4 of a 6-part series discussion of imposter syndrome
Imposter Syndrome In the Workplace
Corporations are recognizing the impact imposter syndrome has on employees, and the backlash to their bottom line.
In today’s competitive world saturated with social media 60-second entertaining videos flooding digital spaces, it is no surprise some may feel pressured and possibly inadequate when it comes to maintaining confidence in their skills and talents. While this may be a fleeting moment for some, for others it is an unrelenting perpetual cycle of self-doubt. But this time instead of social media posts, it’s nurtured by company culture and biases within the workplace. Studies have found that over 70% of people will experience this cycle at some time during their professional career.
This cycle has a name, Imposter Syndrome, and has proven to be a significant barrier for some employees in reaching their peak performance. Despite external recognition via awards, promotions, and high-value tasks, these employees are plagued with the feeling of being a fraud. Loosely defined, imposter syndrome is the doubting of abilities of high-achieving professionals connected to an ongoing feeling of living a deceitful professional life. As such, imposter syndrome is an internal perception of fraudulence. In the workplace, the potential for imposter syndrome to rise is the result of employees not being able to recognize their valuable qualities seen by coworkers or superiors, especially if positive feedback isn’t often expressed.
The Company Productivity Roadblock
Imposter syndrome is a roadblock for corporate productivity. It is a negative force that feeds one’s attitude and mind, eventually negatively impacting their work. Feelings of inadequacy end up convincing employees of their insecurities and forcing their fears into realities. This roadblock creates conflict. The conflict, as it relates to imposter syndrome, is that internal self-perception and is also a form of self-judgment. Therefore, when internal cues are weak and misguided, it challenges the ability to accept visible external cues of perception. In taking on the self-labelling fraudulent thinking, one is unable to reconcile the two (internal and external) versions of perception. This is the vicious cycle of imposter syndrome.
The Journal of Behavioral Science points to the workplace where this phenomenon is mostly rooted and experienced. As a result, managers have become aware of how this cycle produces anxiety in employees. Recognized cases led to and caused reduced work performances. This begs the question, what could and should employers be doing to combat what some have identified as a mental health workplace pandemic.
The Employers Beneficiary Role
The first step in addressing this phenomenon is for employers to consider the disempowerment of imposter syndrome a corporate responsibility. By taking on this role seeking to understand imposter syndrome, employers can help tackle and lessen the negative impact this syndrome carries within the workplace. While it can not be said that employers are at fault, this growing issue is getting worse due to the alleged lack of support from employers in acknowledging and addressing the imposter syndrome cycle. For this reason, imposter syndrome has become a growing problem within the workplace.
Corporations are acutely aware that an employee’s wellbeing is a factor in work performance. Documented and reported studies relay imposter syndrome is akin to acute or chronic mental health issues.
Hence, the emotional aspect of this syndrome makes employees feel isolated and brings about complications in interpersonal relationships with peers and management. Perhaps the strongest beneficiary reason why it would be in the best interest of employers to proactively address imposter syndrome within the workplace is that employees that experience imposter syndrome thinking they are a fraud, may self-sabotage. Self-sabotage may manifest in various ways. For example, high-achieving professionals who suffer from imposter syndrome may hesitate to take chances to enhance company efforts or possess the confidence to advance company goals. This would be directly opposite of company objectives.
At the core, imposter syndrome is the result of an employee not feeling supported. And while it can be argued that these feelings may be natural for the masses, this argument provides the justification for the critical need for employers to understand imposter syndrome. Increased understanding of this phenomenon is a reasonable and viable solution as the first step towards corporate responsibility. Organizations should desire to strive to create and strengthen a culture of belonging. Hence, consideration for organizations to implement human resource development training for executives and managers on the topic is meaningful.
It is essential for upper management to learn how to detect, respond, and address possible company culture that fosters the growth of this syndrome. In part of understanding, employers gain a greater understanding of the role of bias towards the continuance of imposter syndrome.
The truth of the matter is that dismantling the power of imposter syndrome will require a mass public effort. Organizations would do well to collectively consider the benefits of showing concern for employees’ wellbeing in that it will ultimately, yet certainly, impact company culture, growth, and profits.
Most organizations pride themselves on customer satisfaction and the delivery of quality products and services. These same organizations may also consider their customers to reside outside of the company. However, by taking on the corporate responsibility towards addressing imposter syndrome within the workplace, these organizations will have recognized that their first line of customers are their employees sitting at the very desks they’ve purchased within their company.