4 Signs of Imposter Syndrome and What to Do About It

Professional woman looking out her office window

Have you ever felt like you’re successful only because of luck? Do you ever feel like you’ve fooled people into thinking you know what you’re doing? Do think people perceive you a lot better than you see yourself? If you’ve ever had these feelings or similar thoughts of self-doubt, you’ve likely suffered from imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a mental condition where you doubt your accomplishments and worry about being exposed as a fraud. It’s incredibly common – 70% of people will experience it at least once in their careers – and can affect anyone from an intern to the owner of the company. If left untreated, imposter syndrome can lead to problems for you and your small business, including decreased employee morale and productivity. Keep an eye out for these four signs of imposter syndrome in your employees.

1. Turning down new opportunities

Pay attention to team members who are afraid to take on new responsibilities, including turning down promotions. Refusing new challenges is a sign that they aren’t confident in their abilities or that they’re afraid that they won’t excel, so they think it’s better not to try at all.

2. Perfectionism

Perfectionists often set unhealthy and unrealistically high goals for themselves, so they heavily criticize their work when it doesn’t meet those expectations. Even if they achieve their goals, a perfectionist might feel like they weren’t successful because they think the task could have done better. Sometimes, it can be difficult for perfectionists to delegate because they believe they’re the only one who can do the job correctly.

3. Workaholism

On the surface, it might seem like a workaholic is good for your business – they’re always the first one to work and the last one to leave. It’s likely they even continue to work from home at the end of the day. But, workaholism can often lead to burnout. These workers may regularly skip workplace social events because they think they have too much to do, and they might even ignore their own hobbies to focus on their job.

4. Refusing help

People with imposter syndrome will often refuse help when offered because they feel like they have to prove their worth. They think that if someone helps them, that person will realize they’re a fraud.

6 ways to handle imposter syndrome

Because imposter syndrome can lead to employees making mistakes because they’re too afraid to ask for help or getting burnt out because they never stop working, it’s crucial that you create a workplace that builds your team’s confidence in themselves.

1. Celebrate achievements

Encourage your team to celebrate their accomplishments, no matter how small. By applauding their achievements, your workers will recognize that their success isn’t just an accident or caused by luck, and it will help them focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.

2. Create a mentorship program

If your team members mentor each other, they can see how far they’ve come and can prove to themselves that they’re skilled and talented. If an employee is being mentored, they have someone who can help them figure out what their next steps should be and can help them determine how best to tackle new challenges and opportunities.

3. Reward those who ask for help

Asking for help can help your workers grow and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Create a culture where your team is comfortable asking for help.

4. Encourage openness

Let your staff know that occasionally doubting yourself is normal by sharing your own experiences with imposter syndrome. Encourage them to talk about their feelings of self-doubt because sometimes people need to talk through their worries to realize they’re unfounded.

Being open with your workers is a great way to improve communication in your small business. Learn more tips for improving communication.

5. Provide frequent feedback

Feedback is a great way to let people know how they’re doing. If someone is doing great in their job, let them know, so they don’t worry that they’re missing something. If someone is struggling, help them create a plan to get back on track.

6. Change the way you think about failure

Make sure your team understands that mistakes happen and shouldn’t be a source of shame. Let them know that failure is not a dead-end, but a chance to learn and grow.

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