Written by Joanne Sacco

Imposter Syndrome: What To Do When You Feel Like A Fraud In Your Job

Do you ever feel like your success at work comes down to pure luck, not your ability?

Or perhaps once you’ve achieved success, that you won’t be able to repeat it?

Or because you don’t know EVERYTHING there is to know, you’re not the right person for the job?

If so, you might be suffering from imposter syndrome.

The good news is there are many things you can do to tip the scales from negative to positive. This ensures you enjoy those well-deserved accolades, rather than believing it all came down to luck.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first recognised imposter syndrome – a psychological phenomenon where individuals attribute their achievements to outside influences, not their ability, talent or intellectual prowess. Furthermore, they found these same individuals worry that once they’ve tasted success, they’ll never be able to repeat it. 
While it applies in personal lives, it was found to be extremely prevalent in work settings, with studies suggesting around 70% of people experience it at some time in their career.
Examples might be:

  • Choosing not to apply for a great role because you don’t have every single prerequisite
  • Declining to take on exciting new coding work because you feel your skillset is a touch shaky in an area
  • Not asking for help when your project hits a snag because you don’t want to look like a failure or fraudster 
  • Not wanting to present to or teach others because you think your skills are subpar

Why It Happens

Working out exactly why imposter syndrome occurs takes a psychology degree and decades of human study! But experts in the field seem to agree there is a relationship between the syndrome, and one or more of the following factors:

  • Your personality – especially if you’re prone to anxiety, perfectionism or low self-esteem
  • Your family background – you may have had overprotective parents, or felt like you needed to live up to high family expectations  
  • Your environment – you may have been subjected to racism, sexism and/or felt like you didn’t belong (whether that’s at home or in social groups)
  • Your learned experiences – you may have been socially conditioned during your early schooling years to equate success with self-worth

What To Do About It

It’s normal to experience doubt at work from time to time. But if it’s starting to control the way you behave, here are some techniques you can employ to combat imposter syndrome:
1. Acknowledge your thoughts
When you go into imposter mode, take a moment to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helping or harming you.
2. Separate facts from feelings
Everyone feels like they’re an idiot at some point at work.  But while you might feel that way, it’s important to realise you actually aren’t.
3. Reframe 
Take your negative thought and flip it. For example, when starting a new role, change your thought from “I’m worried they going to discover I have no idea what to do”, to “It’s normal to feel shaky at the start. Even though I don’t have all the answers, I’m switched on enough to find them.”
4. Forgive yourself 
You’re going to fail at some point. The key is to commit to forgiving yourself when it happens, rather than continually beating yourself up. 
5. Recognise the value in constructive criticism
If you don’t meet your deadline, or deliver work that didn’t hit the brief, try to take the criticism that comes in a positive light. What can you learn from the feedback to do better next time? 
6. Ask for help
It’s impossible for you to know it all, always. Getting rid of the ‘never ask for help’ mentality is a big step in beating imposter syndrome. 
7. Share your thoughts
Speaking to a trusted friend or mentor about your fraudster feelings can really help. You’ll likely uncover they’ve felt the same way too, which can be comforting. But if you believe your feelings are getting the better of you, it may also be worth seeking out professional support as well.
8. Reward yourself
When success comes calling, try to learn to embrace it. Accept the accolades that come, knowing it’s because you performed, not because luck intervened. 
If you find yourself doubting your abilities, feel free to use us as a support. Having nurtured hundreds of clients across the IT field in our 20+ year history, we’re well placed to offer you the tools you need to jump those career hurdles.

Leave a Comment

Explore our latest technology, digital, risk &
business transformation opportunities.

View All Jobs