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Blog - What is causing the Imposter Syndrome epidemic?

What is causing the Imposter Syndrome epidemic?

Posted by Catherine Hamilton 18/09/19

I came across an article this week about how common imposter syndrome is in the workplace.  Low self-belief has been a topic in the media for some time but what is causing this “epidemic” that so many employees feel that they don’t belong and scared of being “found out”?

A large part of the answer lies in the cultures we create at work.

At the end of 2018 EY carried out The Belonging Barometer Survey.  It highlights the 3 key motivators needed for employees to feel like they belong. Not surprisingly they are:

1. When they feel trusted and respected
2. When they have the ability to speak freely and voice their opinion
3. When their unique contributions are valued

The survey also concluded that social exclusion at work makes people feel ignored, stressed and sad and more than half of all respondents feel exclusion is a form of bullying.

Underpinning this is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once our basic needs have been met, we have an innate need to belong. It is why employee network groups are so successful – they provide a safe place for sharing, caring and understanding.  

Maslows Hierarchy of NeedsIf we can gain an understanding of how we can each be more inclusive we can together create a culture where people feel they belong.  And this in turn should reduce the number of people feeling like they are an imposter.

Because we tend to like people who are like us, it is natural to surround ourselves with those we feel a connection with – referred to as affinity bias.  We feel more comfortable about them and they become our “go to people”.  Of course, they will all be different but there are commonalities that link us.  It’s not that we cannot get on with those in our “Out Group”, but it takes more effort than those in our “In Group”.

You probably know who your “go to” people are?  Who you chose to have coffee with, speak to, ask for help?

While we remain within the comfort of our “In Group”, we don’t get to know our “Out Group”.  And as they are less known to us, we tend to stereotype – ‘they would do it like that’ or ‘people like them always…’

Affinity bias is natural and can work well for us.  But it is important to notice more those who are being excluded, on the side lines.  Once we start to make an effort to actively include others, to be curious about others, to embrace difference, we start to break barriers down and create a culture where all are valued.  Boosting confidence and self-belief, valuing differences in approach and experience and view point will help to include those who may feel like they don’t belong.

Rather than blame others for not getting involved, what can we do to be more inclusive?

Start with these 3 questions to help you think about what you can do to break down some barriers and actively include others….

1. Who are your “go to” people?
2. Who don’t you spend much time with?
3. What’s it like to join your team?

For more information on how we can help you create an inclusive culture and remove the barriers to inclusive working call us on 01903 732782, email or contact us for information and updates.

Catherine Hamilton
Catherine Hamilton
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