Everyone, at some point in their careers, has experienced low self-esteem.
Whether you were a nervous junior who felt they had everything to prove, a new recruit met a highly-skilled team or an employee who had recently received a promotion – it seemed like you didn’t belong in any field or qualified for almost universal experience. There is one in.
Indeed, research suggests that up to 70% of all professionals experience Encounter Impostor Syndrome at some point in their careers.
Alex Hattingh, Chief People’s Officer at Employment Hero, explains that, typically, an employee will begin to feel more confident after a few days, or when they will settle into their role and team. But what if you find that one of your employees is constantly down, calm, or scared? What if an employee constantly underestimates their own work or feels unable to share their thoughts and ideas? You may have to offer them a helping hand to make them feel better and reach their true potential.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a feeling of low self-esteem that makes a person believe that they do not deserve to be in their role, position or environment.
When a person suffers from Impostor Syndrome they may feel like a fake or a fraud and do not have the skills or qualifications to succeed. The feeling can be quite uncertain – such as any time they feel they may be ‘out’ for not being able to. Each of their achievements or successes is due to luck – not through skill, personality or perseverance. They think that whatever they do can be exposed to them and – in the workplace context – they can be fired and shown the door.
The good news is, this phenomenon is quite common and can be done. It also occurs more in people who are high achievers. So, the silver lining is that if you suffer from Impostor Syndrome, it could be a sign that you are actually a high performer. This, of course, does not make the experience any less unpleasant.
So, what happens when you experience impostor syndrome?
You may be involved in one or more of these tackling processes:
Destroying Your Own Achievements – You think that what you have done is a lucky coincidence. You should never share your success with others because they know you did nothing.
Becoming a Perfectionist – Even if you make a small mistake, your chances of getting ‘out’ increase. You get tired of working overtime or trying to perfect every little detail on the weekends. You are unlikely to ever ask for help.
Setting extremely challenging goals and kicking yourself when you get younger – you feel like you have to constantly prove yourself, so you set unrealistic goals. When you read less, it further ‘confirms’ that you are not a skilled employee.
Rejecting Compliments – If your coworkers ever appreciate or acknowledge a part of your work, you can probably respond by saying, “It could have been better,” “It’s not as good as it should have been,” or “It wasn’t.” I, for good reason [other team member] You also lose your own skills and knowledge.
Irresistible Fear of Failure – The thought of failure, rejection, and finding out who you really are, keeps you awake at night and makes work a stressful experience.
Unpleasant and impossible sound? These symptoms of impostor syndrome can take a toll.
How do you tell if someone is fighting Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, as the sufferer may appear confident from the outside. For this reason, it may be a good idea to first consider whether the person is suffering from a lack of confidence or whether they are just introverts.
It is important to remember that having an employee who is generally quiet or less open does not mean that they are feeling low self-esteem. There will be a number of different communication styles that exist within your group, some more subtle than others. Introverts draw their energy from time spent alone.
They may enjoy a short stay with others, but too much socializing can be exhausting or tiring. Introverts are less likely to be able to show a large, confident personality for long periods of time, and lack of confidence may have nothing to do with it. So don’t just look at your introverted staff members or ignore your introverted staff members, because extroversion may not necessarily be a display of confidence – it could easily lead to a serious case of Impostor Syndrome.
Tips to help someone in your team overcome Impostor Syndrome
Fortunately, there are many things that managers and employers can do to help their team defeat Impostor Syndrome.
Be specific about your feedback
It is really difficult for people who are struggling with Impostor Syndrome to react. On the one hand, they do not enjoy receiving positive feedback – they often fall behind other staff members or leave their success to fate or ‘fluke’. On the other hand, negative or constructive reactions may spiral downward, as if they feel that their negative influence on themselves is being confirmed.
When you respond well, make sure you are really specific about how great their work is. Be clear about what went wrong and what you need from them, then try to balance the negative feedback with something positive.
It’s also great to be able to share some examples of when you got some constructive feedback and how it helped you perform better in the workplace, so your employees understand that no one is perfect.
Build a relationship of trust with 1: 1s
Creating a great culture as a team is important for employee confidence – having a trusting relationship is equally important for helping employees overcome Eposter Syndrome.
We’re great advocates for one-on-one meetings – these powerful little reunions can work wonders in building great relationships with your employees. A regular meeting between your staff members and their immediate manager can strengthen the 1: 1 bond, improve communication and allow your employee to share any issues in person.
Once this relationship begins to form, you will be able to speak more openly about the feelings of your employees. They will feel more comfortable opening up about their concerns and you will be able to talk through effective steps outside of the meeting to help them feel more confident.
Connect your employee with a mentor
Another way to help your employees build confidence is to engage them with a professional mentor. A mentor can be another source of support and advice for your staff member.
Not only does a consultant have to be from the same company, they can also be influential figures in the industry. It is highly recommended to look for a mentor outside of your immediate team – as they can offer more impartial advice about your staff experience.
Mentoring can not only help an employee build confidence, they can also help their people improve their skills, communication skills, provide alternative perspectives and introduce them to the wider network.