Blog - What is Impostor Syndrome and How Does It Affect Employees

What is Impostor Syndrome and How Does It Affect Employees

A recent survey of 2,400 adults revealed that about one-third of U.S. employees have felt unqualified for their job. Despite real experience and qualifications, some employees feel they don’t deserve their job, promotion, or opportunity. Studies show that a psychological phenomenon known as impostors syndrome, or fraud syndrome, tends to affect more women than men and is especially prevalent among millennials. In fact, the Independent reported that 40% of young female professionals reported feeling intimidated by senior managers compared to about 22% of males. Learn why impostors syndrome is a problem in the workplace and what HR professionals can do to help employees overcome it. Plus learn how you can improve employee self-esteem and wellbeing with a supportive workplace culture.

What is impostor syndrome

Impostor or imposter syndrome at work is the belief that your success is due to luck rather than real ability. Employees suffering from impostor syndrome feel unworthy and fear that they may be “discovered as a fraud.” An article in TechRepublic describes imposter syndrome at work as “an accumulation of insecurities,” frequently seen in high-profile tech jobs but commonly found across all industries. Factors that contribute to an employee’s fraud syndrome could include anxiety, depression, family expectations, and people who don’t receive frequent positive feedback.

Why fraud syndrome is a problem in the workplace

Impostors syndrome has a real and lasting negative impact on employee wellbeing and productivity at work. When an employee begins to believe in their insecurities, it takes a toll on interpersonal relationships and their ability to pursue innovative ideas. Essentially, their self-doubt and fear of failure holds them back from making good use of their abilities and realizing their potential. This creates stress, which can lead to health issues as well as turnover.

How to deal with impostor syndrome

Fortunately, there are a number of things that employees can do on a personal level to combat impostor syndrome. The American Psychological Association recommends following these six tips to combat imposter syndrome at work:

  • Talk to mentors.
  • Recognize your achievements and expertise.
  • Remember what you do well.
  • Realize that no one is perfect.
  • Change your thinking.
  • Talk to someone who can help.

What organizations can do to help employees

It’s also important for organizations to learn how to deal with impostor syndrome. There are some easy and practical ways for organizations to support its workforce by creating a healthier environment at work, including setting realistic expectations. For example, adopting an agenda of inclusion at the organizational level combats imposter syndrome at work because it improves self-esteem. Here are three best practices HR can follow to help employees battle fraud syndrome:

1. Educate and train your managers.
Inform your staff about impostor syndrome and train them to recognize the signs. Encourage managers to reach out and coach employees who are struggling with insecurities and help them manage self-doubt. Be sure to recognize employees and provide positive feedback, but don’t go overboard with praise—which could actually fuel the feelings of impostor syndrome.

2. Nurture open relationships and build trust.
Adopting an inclusion agenda is helpful so that employees see others like them accomplishing tasks and working together with coworkers at all levels. Match employees with a mentor during your onboarding process so they have someone to talk to about their transition at work.

3. Foster a supportive workplace culture.
By building a great workplace culture, your organization will reap the benefits of attracting top talent and improving employee wellbeing. Since impostor syndrome can be exacerbated by a toxic workplace culture that includes workaholics and perfectionists, organizations must focus on creating a positive and supportive culture where it’s ok to share feedback, make mistakes, and ask for help.

Support employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing has a significant impact on healthcare costs, productivity, and engagement. Find out how mental health at work affects employee wellbeing and productivity. Asure Software’s HR as a Service helps employers manage and administer benefits programs in order to support employees’ health and wellbeing.

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