‘Impostor Syndrome’ especially in the workplace is common. It is a psychological term for those people who believe they’ve succeeded due to luck and not because of talent and qualifications. It’s hard to manage but doable.
It’s not a disorder but it’s a phenomenon that happens to many of us in the professional world. Feelings such as the absence of ‘belongingness’ are one of the common symptoms.
Discovered by Dr Suzanne Imes and Dr Pauline Rose Clance in 1970, they thought that this uniquely happens only among women. However, they found out that men can also suffer from such syndrome. They acknowledge that this is a real occurrence and can be accompanied by anxiety, and worse—depression.
This is no joke apparently. This feeling is often realized among high achievers; they fear that others will label them as ‘fraud’ rather than considering their ability and achievements acquired through the years.
These people can be greatly affected by the unwarranted sense of insecurity. They find themselves no longer enjoying their accomplishments because of the Impostor Syndrome. Do you know anyone who has Impostor Syndrome in the workplace?
Let us break down the types of Impostor Syndrome in the workplace that can happen to any colleague we know. By determining them, we can be able to recognize and manage the feeling of defeat.
Perfectionists are one most common types of the Impostor Syndrome in the workplace. They don’t see flaws since they have set excessively high goals for themselves and obsess over details. When they fail, they blame themselves and begin to self-doubt. They also start to worry about whether they are really cut out for the job or not.
These people choose to repeatedly wrestle with and beat themselves up about what went wrong. They have a hard time understanding what success is, where it stops, and how to fully enjoy it. Therefore, they can no longer be satisfied with any achievement because they think they could have done better.
This is usually the manager in the workplace whom subordinates label as a ‘micromanager’. Tasks can no longer be delegated to people in charge because he thinks that he can do the tasks on his own. But when anticipated results aren’t achieved – he gets frustrated, disappointed, and starts accusing himself.
Advice: Seize the moment. Learn to understand that people make mistakes and they are purposely there for reasons to help you in the future. Delegate tasks because people in charge are hired to do them, at the same time, it could also help them learn from their experience and gain a new skill. Celebrate achievements – even the smallest ones, find contentment and foster self-confidence. Trust the process.
As the adage that goes, “There’s so much more to learn than meets the eye,” isn’t really applicable to ‘The Expert’.
This type of person expects that he knows everything and when he doesn’t, he feels shameful because it would be a failure on his part not to know everything. They see their competence based on ‘what’ and ‘how much’ they know or can do as they fear that they might be labeled as ‘incompetent’.
‘Experts’ in the workplace think that they need to seek out more information because of the ‘need to know every piece of information’. These are those who seek out certifications, various training to improve their skills.
Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with that and equipping oneself with a lot the skill set is a great way to land jobs. However, ‘Experts’ won’t apply for jobs if they don’t meet all the criteria. In the workplace, they also tend not to speak up or ask questions because they’re afraid of looking stupid if they don’t know the answer.
Advice: There’s nothing wrong with not knowing everything. Not everyone in this world knows everything. There’s also no shame in asking for help when you need it. It’s better to seek help for things you don’t know, rather than proceed to do it on your own and gain undesirable results. If you can’t figure out a problem, ask help from a superior or from a co-worker. One can always seek help and proper guidance from a professional career coach.
For a false cover-up in concealing their insecurities, supermen or superwomen push themselves to the extremes as this is how they measure their success. They stay up late just to complete the day’s work to prove to the surrounding people that they’re not an impostor. They also think that downtime, me-time, and hobbies are a complete waste of time as they should be dedicating their time to work instead.
Essentially, these are the people in the organization who are labeled as ‘workaholics’ that they feel like they haven’t truly earned their title, despite their achievements. So they need to work harder and longer than those people in the room. These are those who seek validation from working and not really from the work itself.
Advice: When you find yourself in such a situation, rather than work up to 14 hours a day, cascade the tasks into 2 allocated days. In this way, you can clock out at 8 and work on the rest the following day. You can enjoy your time with your family, friends, and yourself watching that favorite series you’ve been bookmarking for the longest time.
If you know someone in the organization who thinks that they need to accomplish tasks – even the difficult ones – on their own refusing to ask assistance when challenged just so they can prove their worth, then he / she may be the ‘Soloist’ version of the Impostor Syndrome.
The Soloist cares only about ‘who’ completes the task making every task done on his own as part of a checklist. Asking help wouldn’t be on his mind as it signifies failure and a shameful thing to do. He is also fearful that people might think he doesn’t have what it takes.
Advice: If this is you, remember that we all need help every now and then. Organizations have a complex system and have their own idiosyncrasies so nobody will judge you if you ask for help from your colleagues. Stop worrying about making a mark on the project or task you are doing too quickly. Everyone else is doubting themselves, too. So seeking help, asking questions, can help you find out more about them than about yourself that you’d start making positive contributions and unique values to your collaborative space.
THE NATURAL GENIUS
This person is very concerned with ‘when’ accomplishments happen and measures tasks with speed and ease instead of effort. The faster it takes them to finish the task, the more they associate the competence with success.
They feel shameful if it took them a long time to complete it or figure things out. They feel dumb simply because they think they are a ‘natural’ genius and they judge themselves based on getting things right on their first try and pair it with absurd expectations.
These people who are well equipped with skills think that they don’t need to exert so much effort in a project or a task. If they do, they feel like they are an impostor or not good enough. They start to doubt their worth and value, and so they begin to procrastinate – putting off a project on hold for the fear that he may not be able to complete it at a given time or he is going to exert that effort he is not used to having proved himself that he is incompetent.
Advice: Accomplishing great things takes a lot of effort and involves skill-building. Take time to settle in your role in the organization. Understand that arriving at better results are on par with working hard and working harmoniously with others. Talk to a mentor who can provide support and encouraging supervision or be a mentor to those people who would need your expertise in the field that they are having difficulty with.
There’s no single cure for Impostor Syndrome. They come from various factors such as childhood memories, family upbringing, home, and school environment, and even behavioral traits. This Syndrome may not have to do with the fear of getting caught by other people, but also the fear of not being able to become who they believe they could be.
Know that, it’s natural to feel self-doubt in moments when you think you did not do your best but it’s crucial not to get this thinking in your way by feeling like having an Impostor Syndrome in the workplace all the time. Otherwise, it can limit your courage to chase your dreams and respond to new opportunities opened for you.
Enjoy your role in the organization! You were hired because they see you worthy of it. This degree of positive response and reinforcement can help you and other people are going through such a difficult time in your lives pull yourselves out.