Most of us have felt this way at least once. It starts with a niggling feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’re about to deliver a presentation you’ve worked hard to prepare. But even as you stand there in front of your team and gesture to your incredibly detailed PowerPoint, you’re asking yourself: am I good enough? Or am I a complete fraud? This is commonly known as imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome involves being capable at work but not believing that you are. This lack of confidence and self-doubt can lead to self-sabotage, making mistakes and underperforming to prove yourself right.
So how do employers stop this from happening to their employees? Well, you can’t ultimately change the way people see themselves, but you can take steps to help them to manage imposter syndrome.
- Communicating regularly
Sometimes, the critical inner voice gets too loud because there are no external voices to drown it out. It’s why you need to communicate with your staff.
Group meetings provide an opportunity to publicly praise good behaviour and achievements in the team. Doing this not only shows recognition and appreciation of good work, but also helps boost morale and confidence in your staff.
Regular one-to-ones are important too. A private setting allows employees to express things they might not want to share in front of everyone else. It means you can find ways to address issues together and help them take steps to feel more comfortable and confident at work.
For example, you can find out how your employee is coping with the workload to help set realistic expectations. Which leads to the next point…
- Creating a clear progression plan
Make sure that everyone knows how they can progress in their role. Employees might start to question themselves if they don’t see a clear path to grow.
Having regular performance reviews can help with this. It’s easier to stay motivated when you have goals to work towards.
It might be worth having more regular performance reviews when an employee is still new to the business. Sometimes, looking at the bigger picture feels overwhelming. But setting smaller, short-term targets can help people develop step by step.
Having a plan of action from day one helps people settle in and hit the ground running. And by reviewing this plan regularly, you can tailor it to their strengths and interests. This will help make sure they enjoy their work and feel good at what they do.
Not only that, but it also gives you a chance to find areas where your employee may be less confident or strong. So, you can offer resources and training to help them gain experience and skills in those areas.
- Giving your employees the trust and space to grow
While monitoring and guiding employees to an extent is crucial, it’s important not to get too carried away. Otherwise, you could end up micromanaging. And this will only make them feel less confident in their abilities.
You must give employees the freedom and trust to make decisions and work independently. Because if you don’t believe in them, how do you expect them to believe in themselves?
Employees should be able to carry out their work tasks without management looming over their shoulders. This adds a lot of pressure and it’s more likely people will make mistakes if they’re under a magnifying glass.
By choosing to take a step back and allow employee to take the lead, you help them grow. This doesn’t mean you have to step back completely. Just give them the space to figure things out and offer help and guidance when they need it.
This will help your staff prove to themselves that they have what it takes to succeed.
- Being inclusive
Sometimes, it’s a wider issue at work that creates feelings of imposter syndrome.
Employees may doubt themselves if they feel their co-workers exclude and disrespect them. This is likely to happen if a workplace fails to take steps to be inclusive and prevent discrimination.
A woman in a male-dominated workplace, for example, might doubt themselves if feel male colleagues don’t take them seriously. Employees from minority groups might see themselves as having less of a voice in the workforce if there’s a lack of representation.
To help combat this, you should have robust equality and diversity policies. Your policies should highlight your commitment to preventing discrimination and exclusion at work.
You should also regularly evaluate your recruitment processes and practices to make sure you’re being as inclusive as you can be. You should take care not to accidentally exclude any groups who share a protected characteristic like race, sex, or disability.
- Clamping down on bullying and harassment
Inclusivity doesn’t stop at recruitment. It means making sure everyone feels heard and respected.
This means giving everyone a chance to have their say in meetings. Don’t allow people to interrupt or belittle anyone else’s contribution. And to reinforce this, it’s good to remind your staff of expected standards of behaviour (which their employee handbook should lay out).
Employees might doubt themselves if they feel bullied or harassed by other colleagues.
It’s why you must also take a zero-tolerance approach towards any form of discrimination or bullying at work. This means investigating every complaint and calling out behaviour that crosses the line.
- Create a company culture that combats imposter syndrome
Sometimes, employers make the mistake of putting the onus on the employee to overcome their imposter syndrome.
They don’t consider how the workplace culture contributes to feelings of self-doubt and low confidence.
If your employees are feeling insecure in their abilities, it’s important to figure out why. If multiple employees are lacking in confidence, it might signal a wider issue in the organisation that needs addressing.
Do employees feel supported? Are they receiving enough feedback? Or do they feel suffocated and that you don’t trust them to get the job done? These are important questions to ask yourself, as these factors can all contribute to a growing sense of self-doubt.
You can help staff to manage imposter syndrome by:
- Regularly reviewing and updating your policies and practices.
Make sure everyone knows what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, to help ensure that everyone feels valued and heard in the team.
- Improving communication.
Whether that’s in a manager-employee relationship or employee-employee relationship.
- Setting realistic expectations.
Do staff have realistic targets and deadlines to work towards? If your employee is struggling to meet targets because they’re unrealistic, this can also contribute to feelings of failure. So, make sure to keep expectations in check.
By taking these steps, you can help your employees start to believe in themselves the way you believe in them.
As CEO of Health Assured, the UK and Ireland's leading health and wellbeing services provider, Bertrand Stern-Gillet is experienced in business development, operations, technology, finance, and M&A. He previously served as CEO of the Peninsula Group's fledgling Canadian operations, navigating them through the 2020-21 global pandemic, whilst increasing the client base and improving profitability.