andrew@ajbhrcs.co.uk07808 727883
01788 228608

August 11, 2021

The bright side of imposter syndrome

by Andrew Beaumont

"It was pure luck."

"I don't belong here."

"I'm a fraud and it won’t be long before everyone realises."

…sound familiar?

Unfortunately most of us have experienced feelings like this at some point in our lives. Those moments of doubt and unworthiness that make us question ourselves and our accomplishments.

If it feels like it doesn’t matter how hard you work, yet you still feel inadequate, you are likely suffering from something commonly referred to as imposter syndrome. It can affect many aspects of your life, but it is often rife amongst staff and in the workplace.

A quick google of the term mostly brings up results of articles and advice on how to overcome your insecurities and build self-confidence, but a recent study has found it to be a lot more complex than that.

And although imposter syndrome can shake your confidence and is generally seen as a negative trait, this doesn’t always have to be true… especially when considered from an employer’s perspective.

A source of fuel

Recent research by Wharton researcher Basima Tewfik, using a study of 160 workers, found that the outcomes of having imposter thoughts were not all negative but in fact mixed.

Whilst having imposter thoughts does induce fear, it can also be a motivator. The behaviours exhibited by ‘imposters’ in an attempt to compensate for their self-doubt can then actually increase productivity and motivate them to perform better.

Those pesky imposter thoughts, although self-critical, can also be a source of fuel, motivating people to work harder to prove themselves and work smarter to fill gaps in knowledge and skills. In some cases meaning you will see staff with imposter syndrome outperform their colleagues who don’t.

Though workers may feel fraudulent, this has no direct correlation with their ability to do their job and the study showed that those who suffered from the syndrome made the same decisions and took the same actions as those who said they didn’t suffer.

So although it’s been assumed that imposter syndrome is nothing but detrimental and will elicit stress, fear, or lowered self-belief and inability to do their job, this study reveals that those types of doubts in the workplace are normal and even healthy.

Instead of holding people back, they can propel them, and the business, forward.

Improved communication

The other positive side effect of imposter syndrome identified was that having these types of thoughts can also improve interpersonal performance at work.

Sufferers were found to be more receptive and engaging with their communication - helping people, cooperating, and encouraging others.

It seems that when employees feel that their competence is lower than others think, they may be spurred to prove themselves on an interpersonal level.

Imposter syndrome – friend or foe?

So as the evidence points towards no negative effects in the quality of work, self-doubt and imposter syndrome may not always be as detrimental as we thought it was.

A positive attitude can be found in the idea that although you or your staff may not feel like you know what you’re doing, you believe in your ability to at least be able to learn. An attitude which will benefit work ethic, interpersonal connections, and result in them outperforming non-imposter colleagues and improving the business as a whole.

Struggling with imposter syndrome?

For further support to help you and your teams maximise productivity and performance, just drop me an email (andrew@ajbhrcs.co.uk) or pick up the phone (01788 228608).

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