5 Ways Companies Can Be Vocal About Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 25, 2024 at 11:30AM UTC

Do you ever wonder if you’re ACTUALLY good at your job? Do you think you were hired by mistake or doubt your own abilities? Do you feel like a fraud?

If so, you’re not alone. Like millions of others — nearly a third of Americans, according to research from Moneypenny — you suffer from imposter syndrome at work.

Imposter syndrome, as you can probably guess, is when someone questions whether they are actually deserving of the roles, praise and accolades they receive. It happens regardless of actual talent — many people who suffer from it are, in fact, very high-achieving, the best of the best. It can come from many different places and goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. 

If you’re a leader or manager at your company, chances are, at least some members of your team suffer from imposter syndrome. And you can play a key role in helping them overcome it.

How can employers help individuals overcome imposter syndrome?

1. Openly acknowledge and provide a forum for discussing imposter syndrome.

People should know that despite what they may feel, they’re not alone. When you create a space for sharing thoughts and fears — a safe space, where people can truly be open — you will be showing your team members that they have real support. This will contribute to developing a secure environment for everyone.

This can also go a long way in reducing the stigma surrounding the concept of imposter syndrome — along with other anxieties and fears.

2. Encourage employees to seek out help when they need it

People should also know that having problems or trouble with their work doesn’t mean they’re bad at their jobs or undeserving of the roles they have. If they are struggling, they should be able to seek out help. Part of developing a safe space at your organization is encouraging employees to seek out help from you and reminding them that they can be open with you, without the fear of judgment.

3. Deliver frequent feedback.

By feedback, we’re not talking empty praise — you’re not there to coddle your team members but to support them. Constructive criticism can help people with imposter syndrome as much as praise; this gives them concrete ways to improve. Nobody is perfect, and by giving your employees meaningful feedback, you’re helping them gain confidence and grow.

4. Establish mentorship programs.

Mentoring is a great way for individuals to gain perspective and become more comfortable in their roles. By establishing a mentorship program within your organization, you’re helping more experienced, seasoned professionals connect with earlier-career individuals. It’s especially helpful if the professionals are in similar fields or come from similar backgrounds — this can help mentees see how someone like them has “made it” and that they deserve to be there, too.

5. Offer praise and recognition.

People want to feel valued — and by recognizing them, you will help your team members become more confident. This can come in the form of praise for great work and going above and beyond, calling them out in meetings or group settings or even offering rewards.

Even those who may already seem confident and self-assured will appreciate recognition — we all do!

What can employees do to overcome imposter syndrome?

Of course, if you’re the one experiencing imposter syndrome, you play a role in becoming more confident, too. While many of us experience it and it’s not your “fault,” it’s still important to work on becoming more comfortable in your role and recognizing the qualities you have that led you here. 

Work on paying attention to those voices that tell you you're not good enough — and shutting them down. Be open with your manager (but not to the point of constantly needing reassurance). If you have specific problems or need clarification, ask! 

Be sure to celebrate your wins, however small. Consider writing down three things you did well every day to help you notice the positive impact you’re having. And ultimately, recognize that imposter syndrome may always be part of your life, but you can learn to appreciate your own strengths and talents, too.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Flexx Magazine, Points in Case, Jane Austen's Wastebasket, and Greener Pastures. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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