Overcoming Imposter Syndrome at Work: Achieving Team Growth

Imposter syndrome has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and for good reason—it’s something that many of us struggle with. A review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science estimated that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. And imposter syndrome at work has become ever so common.

Imposter syndrome is that feeling of self-doubt like you aren’t qualified for your job, and feeling like you’re a fraud. It can have negative effects on all aspects of our lives, especially work. Learning how to get over imposter syndrome at work can help you and your team excel to new heights and achieve your fullest potential. 

In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of what imposter syndrome is, why it’s relevant to employers and employees, and how you can foster team growth via strategies like confidence building to combat imposter syndrome at work. 

imposter syndrome at work

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can be somewhat difficult to define since it isn’t a diagnosable mental illness, but it’s still fairly easy to identify. Put simply, imposter syndrome is when you feel like an imposter or fake in some aspect of your life. Even if you have been successful in that area of your life and are a high achiever, you can still feel like you are inadequate. It’s a consistent feeling of doubt, often coupled with negative self-talk

It’s easier to understand and beat imposter syndrome by looking at the most common symptoms, so let’s take a look at how it actually manifests in the real world. 

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

  • Inability to assess your own skills. Being unable to objectively analyze your own skills and competence—especially if you always think you aren’t good enough—is one of the most common symptoms of imposter syndrome.
  • Self-doubt. Another very common symptom is self-doubt, the lack of confidence in your own skills and abilities. 
  • Self-sabotage. If you find yourself blocking your own success and preventing your own goals, you may be dealing with a case of imposter syndrome. 
  • Fear of failure. Though being afraid of failure is a normal part of life, constantly being afraid that you’ll fail and won’t meet expectations can be a sign of imposter syndrome. 
  • Being overly critical of yourself. Self-reflection and analysis is important, but frequently berating yourself over small mistakes and missteps can be another symptom. 

How Imposter Syndrome at Work Can Impact Team Dynamics

With the basics of imposter syndrome covered, let’s move on to how imposter syndrome at work can impact team dynamics.

Lowered Ambition

One of the most harmful and impactful impacts of imposter syndrome is lowered ambition. People with imposter syndrome often lose the motivation that pushes them towards their goals and successes. If you are constantly filled with self-doubt and fears of failure, you may stop trying just to avoid the failure you fear. While this is a very personal set of feelings, it has impacts on the workplace too. 

Lowered ambition and motivation for one employee can have an effect on everyone else. It may result in other employees picking up the slack, resulting in burnout. One employee’s burnout or lack of motivation may wear off on others.

If your employees aren’t motivated and driven, promoting and skill development can become harder. Imposter syndrome at work can have big consequences on your entire team, not just the employee dealing with it. 

Jealousy

Another potential impact of imposter syndrome is jealousy. It may sound odd, but it is a fairly common result of imposter syndrome. Those who feel they aren’t adequate often think that it’s only them and that everyone else on the team has it all together. This can lead to jealousy of other team members, which can obviously be harmful in the long run.

As most managers and leaders likely already know, jealousy can quickly spread in the workplace and have negative effects. It can lead to feelings of inferiority, create distance between team members, hamper communication, and more. Again, imposter syndrome is a highly personal issue that can quickly impact your entire team. 

Poor Morale

Tying the previous points together, imposter syndrome at work can result in an overall poor morale among your employees and team members. As self-doubt, lowered motivation, and jealousy start to have impacts on communication, success, and goals, morale can quickly be affected across your entire organization.

It’s no secret that poor morale can have a multitude of negative impacts on your business. A Gallup report found that companies with high employee morale were more productive and profitable than those with low morale. It’s apparent that high morale is a key factor of successful businesses, and imposter syndrome can directly impact it. 

imposter syndrome at work

How Leaders Can Combat Imposter Syndrome and Foster Growth

It’s clear that imposter syndrome can have a big impact on team dynamics, but how do you deal with a work-related problem that’s so personal? Combating imposter syndrome isn’t easy, so let’s look at some ways leaders can beat imposter syndrome and foster growth. 

Encourage Open Communication

As with most workplace related problems, a great place to start is by encouraging communication. Effective communication is an essential part of any successful business or organization, and it is necessary if you want to figure out how to combat imposter syndrome. 

Try creating more opportunities for discussion, whether that be through meetings, events, or something else. Discussion opens up the possibility to talk about goals, achievements, feelings of inadequacy, struggles, and more. These conversations can help your team get closer, understand each other better, and understand that they are as qualified as everyone else. 

When conducting discussions, make sure to listen and give proper consideration to team members’ thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Discounting their viewpoints can further imposter syndrome at work and disincentive employees from speaking up. Make your discussions an open, safe place for communication where all can freely share their ideas without fear of being judged. 

Build Trust

Another essential aspect of learning how to stop imposter syndrome is building trust. Trust is what holds businesses and teams together, but it can be diminished by imposter syndrome. Working to build trust however can be an incredibly effective way to combat feelings of self-doubt. 

Get to know your team members. You shouldn’t just think of them as the job they are in. Your team members are individual people with their own strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and goals. Learn about your team members, what they enjoy doing on their time off, what helps them succeed, what causes burnout, and more.

Team building activities like the MBTI team building workshop or the emotional intelligence for teams workshop can help you get to know your teams while improving on other skills that will help better your workplace. 

You can also build trust in other ways, such as making extra time for interaction or showing appreciation. Making the effort to check in with employees, thank them for their hard work, and celebrate their success can go a long way when it comes to building trust and boosting morale.  

Emotional Intelligence for Teams

Foster Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is another key strategy when it comes to beating imposter syndrome at work. Employees dealing with imposter syndrome are often “checked out” and not engaged, so fostering engagement is a key to overcoming it. 

Encouraging collaboration is a simple way to spur engagement amongst employees. Having them share ideas and work on projects together can increase communication, better relationships, and result in more engaged employees. 

Recognition and feedback are also important aspects of encouraging engagement. Employees who don’t have their success celebrated or are always criticized are more likely to get burnout and disengaged with their work.

Always make sure you take the time to acknowledge your employees’ successes, and make sure your feedback and criticism is constructive. Point out what they did correctly while also pointing out areas for improvement. Avoid being overly negative and critical, especially for employees currently dealing with imposter syndrome.

Help Team Members Develop Skills

This might be the most obvious way to fight back against imposter syndrome, but it can be incredibly effective. Since the root of imposter syndrome relates to feelings of inadequacy, helping team members develop their skills can directly combat it. By helping your employees learn more, you can help them understand their abilities and talents. 

Thankfully, this one is also relatively easy to implement. Offering more resources to employees is a great start, whether that be through soft-skill development, work related trainings, extra certifications, or just encouraging team members to seek learning and development opportunities. Fostering an environment that encourages growth and education can help employees get better and break free from imposter syndrome.

Support Your Team and Help Overcome Imposter Syndrome At Work

Imposter syndrome may be something that most people deal with at some point in their lives, but you don’t have to let it bring you and your team down. You can overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace and encourage team growth by building trust, creating a safe environment, encouraging communication, and working to support your employees. 

Take the first steps towards combating imposter syndrome and get in touch with us. Our professional development events are a great way to connect with your team, help them better their skills, and learn how to beat imposter syndrome. Start working to support your team and push them towards success today.

Anna Webber

Team Contributor

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