How to Address Imposter Syndrome
What is imposter syndrome? How does it manifest itself and how it can be addressed? We attended a webinar to find out.
Understanding Imposter Syndrome
At Walr, we want to build an environment where people can be their best selves. As part of this, we invited the team to join a webinar hosted by Spill, to understand the imposter syndrome; what it is, how it manifests in different people and how we can proactively address and counterbalance it as a remote-first organization.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
The term ‘imposter phenomenon’ first appeared in research in 1978, by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes.
From their study into high-achieving women they identified three key symptoms of what we now call ‘imposter syndrome’:
- Belief that others have inflated views of your abilities – e.g. “I’m actually worse than people think I am.”
- Fear of being exposed as a fraud – e.g. “When am I going to get found out?”
- Attribution of success to external factors – e.g. “This achievement is just down to luck.”
These symptoms serve to broadly define what it is to experience imposter syndrome. Dr Valerie Young took the concept further and developed five types of imposters:
- The Perfectionist – 1 mistake out of 100 equates to a total failure.
- The Expert – success is defined by “what” or “how much” you know or can do.
- The Natural Genius – competence is measured by how quickly you grasp a new skill or subject.
- The Soloist – the urge to do it all on your own.
- The Superhuman – the number of roles you can not only do but excel at.
As with most things in life, these categories are not mutually exclusive. You can relate to a combination of a few different types, or none at all. They do, however, map out potential ‘default behaviours’, to help us understand our common responses.
Who is More Likely to Experience Imposter Syndrome?
While there may be people who show a greater susceptibility to experiencing imposter syndrome, a recent survey of 1,000 participants in the UK, estimated that 85% of individuals experience one or more symptoms of imposter syndrome at work – even though only 25% are aware of it.
Factor in the additional challenge of remote working, where feelings of disconnection can be further perpetuated, and you can begin to see how multifaceted the phenomenon is.
So, if it is something that most of us will experience during our career, what can we do about it? As a remote-first business, how can we mitigate its effects to maximize performance and minimize stress?
How Do We Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Walr?
Although ‘imposter syndrome’ carries negative connotations, it does actually bring a level of self-awareness that shouldn’t be overlooked. What is needed is to find the happy medium, a ‘healthy competence-luck balance’, where we understand our worth but can also admit to when we are wrong.
As part of living our values, we do the following things to help our team find this equilibrium.
Success comes in many forms
Although building a sustainable business is important to us, we recognize that success can be defined in a multitude of ways, beyond just profit and turnover. Ultimately, we are all human first and to deliver delight to our customers, we need to firstly ensure our people know they are valued.
Our ‘Star of the Month’ is one example of how we celebrate individual contributions.
Providing a safe space for constructive feedback
When you lack constructive feedback, your mind naturally fills in the gaps – often inserting negative thoughts where they aren’t warranted.
With weekly 1-1s with line managers, our employees and managers aim to “Lead With Trust” and have the opportunity to request constructive feedback on a regular basis.
We also have a ‘Buddy’ system, where new employees are paired with a current team member, to help them settle into the culture at Walr and answer any questions they may not wish to raise with their manager.
We say “I don’t know”
One of our values is to “Revel in Innovation”. This means we aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know”, knowing that by taking informed risks we have an opportunity to try out new processes and learn from our mistakes.
This isn’t something that just happens at a departmental level, but an ethos every member of the company buys into.
At Walr, we have some mighty goals. However, these do not supersede employee wellbeing. We want to create a space where we can discuss tough topics, shed light on cultural differences and share experiences.
By being proactive and offering seminars such as these, we can not only learn and grow individually, but bring our teams together to strengthen the company’s culture.
“I was surprised to learn that my feelings had a name! I thought it was just the way I personally responded to things, but when I attended the talk, I found it was something a lot of people experienced – even those you never thought would.
It was very interesting and educational. I particularly liked learning the different techniques to reduce that sensation or feeling, and how to take advantage of it too to develop other skills. For example, it helped me to overcome my fear of talking in public. I previously thought I wouldn’t be able to as I’m not an expert in it, when actually I don’t need to be to give it a go! So, for me it was a really valuable webinar.”
Andreina Sorce, Financial Admin Assistant
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