Four Strategies to Stop Feeling Like a Fraud at Work

I had just landed my first major international assignment in Shanghai. The job was a promotion for me at one of the world’s largest and most prestigious PR firms.

I was excited and nervous.

The clients were demanding and pressure from HQ to make that office profitable was intense.

As successful and I had been prior to my international assignment, I wasn’t prepared for the pressure I put on myself to perform.

I woke up every day feeling sick to my stomach. I felt out of my league even though I had saved a large client account who was ready to fire us.

I felt like a phony.

I worked until nine or ten every night.

I would check and re-check my team’s work looking for mistakes. I questioned myself.

I developed digestive problems and the hair on the left side of my head was thin from habitually tugging on it.

Every day I stepped into the office I’d think, “I’m so out of my league.  They are going to fire me one day when they realize I can’t cut it.”

I didn’t know it then but I was in the grip of the Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is a well researched, well-documented phenomenon that occurs when successful and intelligent professionals feel they do not deserve their accomplishments and that they have faked their way to success.

This syndrome can cause negative stress, fear, anxiety, loss of confidence and can eventually lead to career derailment.

Leaders who exhibit the Impostor Syndrome will often make extraordinary efforts to cover up their supposed inadequacy to avoid being found out.

At their worst, Impostors often develop negative coping behaviors to make up for their feelings of low-self esteem and self-worth.

This includes micromanaging, procrastination, perfectionism,  workaholism and chronic worry and anxiety.

People with Impostor Syndrome not only experience turmoil themselves but often unknowingly inflict it on their teams.

The Impostor’s team can end up feeling overworked, demotivated and unappreciated.

But there is a way out.

I recently co-authored a guidebook with my friend and colleague Susan Tardanico, where we address how to get beyond the Impostor Syndrome:

  1. Focus on the facts.  Document what skills and techniques you possess that helped you get to where you are now. Hard data will show you that you didn’t just “get lucky” but achieved your success through your own hard work and intelligence.
  2. Identify and challenge your limiting beliefs. These negative beliefs may hold you back from really owning your accomplishments because they give you an inaccurate picture of what success really looks like.
  3. Get clear on your strengths. Catalogue what you do well so that you can maximize those skills. Often people with Impostor Syndrome overly focus on their weaknesses.
  4. Talk about it. The most competent people are good at leveraging the strengths and experience of others. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of wisdom.

Join the live webinar on March 18th.

Interested in learning how to turn these steps into action?   Join me next Wednesday, March 18th from 1-2pm EST for a live Center for Creative Leadership  Leading Effectively Webinar on the Impostor Syndrome.

I’ll discuss in detail why the Impostor Syndrome can derail careers, the impact the Impostor has on teams and most importantly, concrete action steps to get over Impostor Syndrome and start owning your success. You can find out more and register here. Please also feel free to email or DM me on twitter  with your questions.  I’d love to hear from you.

I hope you’ll join me!



Showing 2 comments
  • Lisa

    I joined the webinar. I would like a copy of the book

    • Boss Mom

      Lisa – I’ve emailed you at your yahoo address. Congrats, you’ve won a copy! Thanks for joining the webinar this week and for visiting my blog! I hope you’ll return.

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