It wasn’t until I was well into my career as an aerospace professional that I first heard of The Imposter Syndrome. And yet in that instant, I was able to relate to it immediately, knowing it was something that I had personally experienced without even knowing it was “a thing”. I felt like if I’d known about The Imposter Syndrome sooner, I might have been better prepared to identify when it was happening and be able to deal with it. So with that knowledge-sharing in mind, I recently presented a workshop on The Imposter Syndrome to REaDY – Rural Employment Development for Youth, a program sponsored by the Government of Canada created to help youth ages 15-30 achieve gainful employment. The program focuses on personal development, life skills, and employment development skills. In preparing for this presentation, a quick Google search revealed several interesting articles and perspectives on the topic.
Back in February 2021, Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey released an article entitled Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome. The articlechallenges society’s understanding of the imposter syndrome and the preconceived notion that it is most common in women. It also speaks to the narrative that overcoming imposter syndrome lies not in fixing the individuals that experience it but rather to create an environment that fosters diversity and a number of different leadership styles.
In another article that followed in July 2021 entitled End Imposter Syndrome in Your Workplace, the same authors offer specific and actionable steps that company managers can take to eliminate the syndrome in their organizations. This naturally requires a combination of data gathering and implementation of real accountability mechanisms. Organizational change becomes sustainable and effective when managers at all levels are held accountable to those changes. Without accountability mechanisms in place that reward change, “there’s very little motivation,” says Dr. Thomas. When leaders take responsibility for tackling the imposter syndrome issue by creating more inclusive environments — not trying to fix individual women — everyone stands to benefit. And workplace cultures that foster imposter syndrome risk losing key talent.
Tulshyan and Burey want us to stop calling natural, human tendencies of self-doubt, hesitation, and lack of confidence as The Imposter Syndrome and to question the culture at work instead of our confidence at work. What’s your take on The Imposter Syndrome? What are you doing to combat it personally or organizationally?
Illustration by Marysia Machulska