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Impostor syndrome and how to help your employees avoid it

The The psychology of people directly affects the productivity of companies. If the workers are not happy, they lack motivation, or the work environment is bad, the results will not be as expected. On the contrary, when employees feel well-being at different levels and are happy with what they do, productivity increases. This explains the growing interest of organizations in employee mental health. This has gone from being an issue that was of no importance to managers, to being one of their main concerns. Thanks to that interest, it is now that we are beginning to be really aware of the proportion of workers affected by syndromes such as burnout or the imposter syndrome, which is exactly what we are going to focus on.

Table of Contents

What is imposter syndrome?

It is a psychological phenomenon that makes people doubt their own abilities and do not feel good enough. In this way, when they achieve success, they cannot assimilate it well. They consider that they have gotten where they are or have reached their goals more by chance or luck than by their efforts and skills.

In the last four or five years there has been a lot of literature on impostor syndrome, but this is nothing really new. It is a phenomenon that was first identified in the late 1970s of the last century by the psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

At first it was thought that it only affected working women, but as the original studies expanded, it was discovered that it can affect both men and women, although it is true that seems to occur more among the female population.

What has also been revealed over time is that this syndrome takes place on two levels. The first, the least serious, disappears as time goes by and experience is gained. It is the one that usually suffers a person who ascends. At first, her new responsibilities may cause her a bit of "vertigo" and generate in her a feeling of not being up to the task. However, as she gains experience on the job, her self-confidence increases and that feeling of being a fraud disappears.

The second level is the most serious, because the syndrome has become so attached to the person's mind that it is very difficult to get rid of it, and it can even worsen over time.

Why is impostor syndrome so negative for workers and companies?

Those who suffer from it feel like an impostor, but they really are not. He or she thinks that he or she does not deserve to be where he or she is and, as a result, does not feel self-confident or satisfied with the situation. We are dealing with a person who is sabotaging himself and who, therefore, he will never give his best.

The most serious cases of this phenomenon prevent the affected worker from develop all that could and, consequently, the company does not benefit from the deployment of its true capabilities.

What causes impostor syndrome?

Family dynamics in childhood

Frequently, we end up identifying with the role that has been assigned to us since we were kids. For example, if someone has a very intelligent sibling who always gets good grades, they will end up assuming that he or she will always be a more mediocre student.

If, in addition, development occurs in an environment in which criticism has more prominence than praise, that child will surely become an adult with a tendency not to value their abilities.

lack of self-confidence

It is closely related to the above. The less sure of himself a person is, the more risk he has of end up believing that you do not deserve your achievements.

Although academic and professional achievements are obtained, low self-esteem will cause those who suffer from it to have a distorted view of themselves that does not coincide with what others see.

Life experiences

The circumstances we live in also influence the perception we have about ourselves. For example, if a person is fired, and over time gets a good job, it is quite likely that negative experience that you have experienced before make it difficult for you to adapt to your new situation.

sexual stereotypes

One of the reasons why this phenomenon is more common in women is because the social pressure on them is greater. Women have assumed that they have to be successful professionals and also dedicated mothers. When they see that they do not reach everything, that feeling of feeling like a fraud appears.

Changes in work life

As we said before, it usually happens that important changes in working life cause this syndrome, especially when the worker progresses professionally. It is normal for them to appear Doubts about whether you are sufficiently prepared to assume the new position, or if it will be able to do better than its predecessor.

How to help employees fight imposter syndrome?

Now that companies are aware of the existence of this phenomenon and how it can affect them and their workers, they can do their part to try to mitigate its effects and, if possible, to prevent its appearance.

Promote responsibility as an aid against impostor syndrome

The key is to create a work environment that encourages the responsibility of employees in all departments and at all levels, both for their achievements and for their mistakes.

A good way to achieve this is that the leader set example acknowledging your own mistakes and being satisfied when you have achieved your goals. This makes employees see that it is not wrong to feel proud of what you have achieved, but that it is not wrong to take responsibility for your own mistakes.

Is about let go of perfectionism, showing that all the members of the staff are human and, therefore, more than trained to do things well, but nothing happens if they are wrong.

Create a collaborative environment

Faced with an achievement, many people feel like frauds because until that moment their contribution and their ideas have never been taken into account in the company. Therefore, when it happens, they think that there has been an anomaly and that what happened cannot be due to their skills and abilities.

The way to end this is to create a collaborative environment in which everyone feel free to express their ideaseven if they are not perfect. If the company values the contributions made by its workers, they will feel more valued and gain self-esteem, which will keep them away from impostor syndrome.

Foster professional development as an aid against impostor syndrome

When the time comes to take on new challenges or face new tasks, it is when there is a greater risk that this phenomenon that we are talking about will appear. However, the risk is reduced if we have employees who are aware of their professional development in the workforce.

Many people have skills and abilities of which they are not aware, so the first step that the company must take is to recognize them, making the worker realize that they have them. On the other hand, the employee must be allowed to take advantage of them, something that is achieved through measures that seek their professional development. For example, by training, wave assignment of new responsibilities.

Normalize feedback

The culture of criticism is still established in many companies, and this is a serious mistake. It is clear that the workers they should be warned when they don't do something right, but this can't be the only feedback that they receive

We must encourage the positive feedback. Get people used to receiving praise when they do something well. Like all the measures we have seen so far, this increases self-confidence levels and values one's own abilities more.

Take care of mental health in the company

Another way to deal with this and other psychological problems that can affect the company is to help employees take care of their mental health, something that can be done in many different ways:

  • offering psychological help to those who require it.
  • With training in mental health care.
  • talks on syndromes such as the impostor or the burned worker, so that employees learn to recognize them and identify the symptoms.
  • Implementation of measures that help reduce stress.
  • Continuing Education that allows employees to perceive their employment as a space for professional and personal development.

Impostor syndrome can be difficult to detect from the outside, because those who suffer from it try to maintain their normal work pace, even if they don't feel well inside. As in some cases it can be serious, and affect both a person's career and the company they work for, it is important that organizations implement measures to try to prevent its appearance.

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