An employer with the impostor syndrome needs to be guided in order to understand his real capabilities at work

Imposter Syndrome – how to deal with this condition at work

Encouraging employees to accept their accomplishments and get in touch with their true skills

Have you ever heard about the ‘Impostor Syndrome’? We are dealing with a real medical condition that ‘causes people to doubt their achievements and fear that others will expose them as fraudulent.’ It was defined by researchers in 1978 and, according to a recent study, around 70% of people deal with it at least once during their lives. In terms of the time extension during which a professional may experience this syndrome, it can go from a very short timeframe to a life-long feeling.

Which are the prevalent symptoms?

Some specific traits can be identified and therefore prevented. Here are the main ones:

  • Low self-confidence and self-sabotage
  • The inability to assess own professional skills
  • Constant self-doubt
  • Unhappiness about the job

How do professionals with this syndrome perform?

Alongside with these features, psychologists have mapped specific types of impostors: ‘the expert, perfectionist, natural genius, soloist and superhero’.  In all cases, this syndrome can lead to a decrease of productivity and to a negative impact on the relations with others. And according to Lauren Romansky, vice president of HR at Gartner professionals, people with this syndrome sometimes leave their current role, changing completely the industry where they’ve been operating from the beginning. Usually ‘these employees end up folding under the pressure, unsure of how to handle those feelings of being an imposter, rather than trying to find possible solutions.’ Employees may even worsen their performances and feel constantly unsure about their qualities, results and skills.

They need to be supported and encouraged in order to get a realistic assessment of their current condition and get in touch with the most authentic part of their best achievements, ideas and qualities.

The best way to deal with this type of syndrome

This condition creates a peculiar form of anxiety and professionals have a hard time accepting their best accomplishments. In the UK, it ‘affects seven in 10 people at some point in their lives and it’s thought two-thirds of women have suffered from it at work in the last 12 months.’ One of the best ways to beat this syndrome is to create a specific mentorship or counseling programme that can help people feel confident, valuable and able to get in touch with their most inner ambivalent feelings.

The type of language used when talking to an employee affected by this syndrome is of the utmost importance. One should avoid using some words: ‘hesitant language like ‘might’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘I just’ automatically suggest an individual isn’t confident in their assertion.’ At the contrary, the use of an effective and straightforward vocabulary will improve the quality of the message that is being conveyed.

If you are keen on learning more about this interesting topic, don’t miss the Best Books for Banishing Imposter Syndrome.

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