Navigating Imposter Phenomenon to Foster an Inclusive Workplace
Imposter Phenomenon (IP) is the internal feeling of intellectual phoniness or fraudulence, despite a proven track record of success and validation. The majority of UK workers have experienced IP at some point in their careers and it is shown to create a greater barrier to ethnic minorities when it comes to progression and wellbeing. Bonnie Andrews shares findings on the prevalence of IP, from a Totaljobs survey of 2,000 workers:
- Many workers in managerial positions have experienced IP (78% in junior management roles and 68% in senior management).
- It causes a persistent feeling of fear of failure or being found out, resulting in anxiety, stress, depression and burn-out.
- It is shown to be most common among female respondents (75%), LGBTQ+ (77%) and BAME (62%).
- Younger generations are also more likely to experience it – 74% of millennials compared to 63% of baby boomers.
- Common traits of workers suffering from IP:
- 70% allow others to take credit for their work,
- 40% feel they haven’t met expectations,
- over half feel uncomfortable receiving recognition and a third have felt anxious.
- A lack of representation in the workplace make minority groups feel like outsiders. While D&I initiatives are unarguably a step in the right direction, greater awareness is needed on self-perception.
- How employers can support their team:
- define and discuss IP if you notice some of the signs in your team,
- consider mentor programmes,
- make them recognise personal strengths,
- consider individual needs in feedback (ask them what they find most useful and set clear expectations),
- empower them through learning and development opportunities (completion of course can help them objectively see their accomplishments).
We all want a happy workforce, so it is our duty to provide a safe environment and understand our employees’ fears and concerns. Managers can help tackle IP with individuals by understanding what feedback is beneficial to them and by actively valuing their unique offering to the business. As individuals we need to interrogate our own thoughts and silence imposter ones.