Feeling like a fraud in your job can spark a vicious cycle. Succumbing to what's being dubbed "imposter syndrome" leaves individuals feeling unfit and insecure at work, even with evidence to the contrary.
The effects it has on the individual are myriad. Imposter syndrome, which is typified by feelings of inadequacy, can handicap one's ability to move forward professionally over the long term, according to a new study of 238 workers published in science research publication Frontiers Journal.
Employers might also feel the burn of imposter syndrome, symptoms of which can affect work performance and employee morale. So, naturally, management and human resources departments ought to get familiar with the signs of imposter syndrome to stave off its affects on the workplace, suggests the study's authors, Mirjam Neureiter and Eva Traut-Mattausch of the department of psychology at the University of Salzburg in Austria.
Here are three ways to combat feeling like a fraud in yourself and others.
1. Keep moving up.
Those who suffer from feeling like a fraud experience less job satisfaction. However, imposter syndrome also paralyzes those who believe they aren't qualified for their current position, much less for an opportunity up the career ladder. They don't look ahead to plan their career, assuming they won't be qualified for anything. And they have very low perceived marketability both internally and externally.
All of these nuances could lead sufferers to be stuck financially as well since they are less likely to ask for a raise or look for a better position. For all of these reasons, managers and HR personnel must keep an eye on workers' trajectory and nudge them to move up as they need to. Using real metrics of a person's performance as well as recommendations from co-workers will go further in assessing their internal value than a subjective analysis.
2. Step outside your comfort zone.
When overqualified, under-confident workers stay in a position long after they should have been promoted or moved to another job, the organization as a whole can begin to feel a strain. Interestingly, the researchers say that those who suffer from imposter syndrome might be your hardest and most loyal workers--at least in the beginning. They often have high standards and want to compensate for what they perceive as their shortcomings. And since they often don't think they can qualify for a job elsewhere, they are motivated to stay at the company.
However, self-identified imposters are less likely to be proactive about taking on new tasks or volunteer for a new responsibility, since they often are not sure they can complete the basic tasks in their job description. And over time, they may become less motivated to stay engaged, believing they don't have what it takes to stay at the company long term.
So take a chance--volunteer for something outside your comfort zone. If you're not sure you're up for it, ask a co-worker or manager to weigh in. They have a sense of your capabilities and can provide a reality check if you're feeling unnecessarily inadequate.
3. Don't short your career.
Finally, it makes sense that a perceived lack of confidence or ability--which leads to reluctance to move up the ladder or ask for raises--would stunt a person's professional growth long term. To combat imposter feelings, stick to concrete facts like years of experience, program knowledge, or contracts signed. And place a lot of stock in personal references. If a manager is willing to put his or her professional reputation on the line to vouch for you, trust that it is well deserved.