Our Senior HR Advisor, Daniel Williams, discusses imposter syndrome in the article below.
As HR professionals, we tend to only focus on the low performers at work and how we can improve them. What if we flip reverse this and look at the high performers? They should be included in the performance management process and deserve to be.
Prominent philosophers, such as Albert Einstein and Maya Angelou, were high performing individuals that rose to the top winning awards to back up their acumen. Their level of accomplishments was astonishing and changed the world we live in today. Nevertheless, they felt that their contributions were nothing special to their peers and that their fame was deemed fraudulent.
People who are greatly skilled tend to think others are just as skilled as they are. This could be down to employers and management who do not reward and recognise correctly. Which may link to feelings and thoughts that they are not worthy of the opportunities and honours they hold. This feeling that is experienced is often called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ or imposter phenomenon/experience.
Where does this outlook of illegitimacy come from? Imposterism is not a disease or disorder, though the name suggests it. Yet, it is not necessarily connected to depression, anxiety or other coined mental health terminology either. This phenomenon states that everyone can experience this either at work, home and general everyday life. Everyone experiences this whether they know what it exactly is or not.
Pluralistic ignorance occurs, where we doubt ourselves individually – just like everyone else. Yet, we think we are alone because no one else raises their voice and talks about the concerns they are experiencing. There a no easy methods to finding out if others are struggling, or if they do not raise this to anyone.
Strong feelings of the imposter syndrome can prevent people from being their authentic selves in work. Ideas are held back and individuals do not flourish or shine in areas that they will achieve in but are holding back due to the internal phenomenon.
The best way to tackle this is to talk – easier said than done.
For some, knowing that this is a real issue and others feel this way can be comforting. For others, it may be that they want to know more. Speaking out can aid in areas of performance. It may be apparent that the fears that people have are not true and that external factors are influencing this upon them; this includes equipment and systems – unrelated to competence. The notion of positive reinforcement can help diminish the negative thoughts too.
We can consider the ‘survivors’ or those that did not go on furlough, such as the Directors and Managers who have been working throughout the pandemic. When life resumes to the new normal are they seen as the high performers or are they experiencing reopening anxiety – the simple answer is no.
Everyone has these feelings and all people are valid in how they feel. These feelings will never fully disappear, but we can be open with our conversations and thoughts to increase the awareness for others. Behaviour breathes behaviour. If we have a positive working environment this may reflect a positive working life.
Many of us may feel like imposters at some point, especially during unprecedented times. As HR, it is our role to tackle the negative and make sure that we are aware of these feelings. Some may argue that they are using this syndrome as a get-out clause from lack of interest or using the pandemic to hide their true self. It is our job as employers and humans to ensure that everyone is made welcome at work, whether that is virtually or face to face.
If you have any concerns or would like to discuss the topics within this article further, please get in contact with the HPC team today.
T: 0844 800 5932