Do you ever feel that you’re occupying a place that’s not yours? It’s as if you’re fooling everyone because no one realises that this position, this promotion or this recognition is not really yours. And it seems that only you realise it. What’s happening to you has a name: imposter syndrome. And with the introduction of teleworking it seems to have increased.
What will I read about in this article?
- What is imposter syndrome?
- Quiz: Do you suffer from impostor syndrome?
- Impostor syndrome and teleworking
What is imposter syndrome?
“I still have a little bit of imposter syndrome… That feeling that I shouldn’t be taken so seriously doesn’t go away. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts about our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”
These words were spoken by Michelle Obama. If one of the most influential women in the world feels this way, we can all be victims of our own insecurities.
Impostor syndrome refers to when someone considers that they have achieved an accomplishment more by luck or chance than by their own merits or efforts.
It was coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. While it was initially used to describe a situation experienced mainly by women, today it is applied to anyone who’s unable to internalise and own their successes.
“The imposter syndrome refers to when someone considers that they have achieved an accomplishment more by luck than by their own merits”.
Telework and the impostor syndrome
The imposter syndrome can be exacerbated by teleworking. We interact less with other people and spend more time alone with our own thoughts. We lose the nuances of communication through body language and sometimes conversations via messages or e-mails are too impersonal or cold, and we may even misinterpret constructive criticism.
This leads some people to have self-limiting thoughts. They’re on the lookout for evidence to reinforce their negative beliefs: they are worthless, they are not enough, and soon everyone will notice.
In addition, the distance of teleworking makes it more difficult to ask for help from a colleague to solve a problem or resolve a doubt. Writing a message is not the same as sharing opinions with the person sitting next to you.
On the other hand, there’s the issue of the use of technologies. There are some people who feel more useless in their work because they’re not used to using certain digital tools that are now so indispensable for remote working.
Imposter syndrome can cause people to miss out on career opportunities for which they do not feel qualified, trigger burnout, affect a person’s ability to form meaningful relationships and also affect the quality of a person’s work. How can remote workers suffering from imposter syndrome mitigate the situation and gain confidence?
“Imposter syndrome can cause people to miss out on career opportunities and affect quality in their work”.
How to mitigate the imposter syndrome in teleworking
Communication is a fundamental pillar
Having informal conversations via chat or video call will help build trust between colleagues. You can update each other on how your work’s going and share words of encouragement. It’s a way to check that the pace and quality of your work is in sync with each other.
Talk openly about how we feel about work. Staying in touch reduces fears and doubts because people can talk about what worries them and see how others can help them. We are no less valid for feeling vulnerable. The intention is to be honest and direct for the benefit of all.
The role of leaders
Managers can also take steps to validate their team members during telework, such as amplifying their positive tone and taking more time to respond. It’s essential that they convey detailed answers or comments by choosing the right words. When working remotely, make an effort to avoid playing economy of words or resorting to SMS language.
Also, it’s important to be alert if you see any of your team members not interacting. Ask them if they need help, actively verbalise why the people on the project team are valuable and that the success of the project is the success of each team member because of the collaborative effort.
It’s OK to be wrong
We all make mistakes. And that’s a good thing. They help us learn and improve. When something goes wrong and you know it will affect the work of others, it’s of great help to share it constructively. Then the time will come to find out how you can fix the problem, find ways to prevent it from happening again and, above all, learn from it.
Sharing mistakes lets us know that anyone can make them and can reduce imposter syndrome. Transparency and accountability are the main fighters against imposter syndrome. They help us to understand that we‘re only human and that we learn as we go along.