Dealing with Imposter Syndrome at Work

Does this sound familiar to you?

You landed the interview and got the job and then you wake up in the morning with the feeling that you somehow cheated the system and that you’re actually not going to do well on the job and furthermore, everyone will know it shortly (if they don’t already!)

You do an amazing job at something at work-landed an account, wrote a great piece, helped someone in an amazing why-and you don’t feel like you did much of anything at all and don’t deserve the praise you received. In fact, you don’t feel like you did enough and someone is bound to find out about it.

You got promoted at work, but you feel as though it was only due to the fact that the manager before you had to leave and you were just the next in seniority-you don’t actually deserve it. It was luck or good timing or worse, you’ve done nothing but trick everyone into thinking you’re better than you actually are and at any moment, the truth will come out and everything will come crashing down.

Sound familiar?

Up to 70% of people have felt this way at one point or another and many people feel that way regularly. It becomes a problem when we allow it to keep us from achieving our goals, our aspirations and our path to getting ahead. It’s called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and it’s one of the hallmarks of high achievers as it’s found among people who always try to give their best and feel discouraged when they don’t feel that they’re giving their all because they are not perfect and know it. If they’re not perfect, how are they deserving of any praise or promotions? This poisonous thinking can make it much harder to get ahead on the job and can even cause people to lose productivity and lose their job.

How Imposter Syndrome Toxifies Your Employment

There are many ways that imposter syndrome can make it really hard to keep your job. First of all, if you’re looking for work, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’re not worthy of that particular job or skill because you think that the only way you’ll get the job is by fooling everyone and you don’t want to do that! Or you may not take a promotion or a job transfer because you feel like you’ll be exposed as soon as you do. These things can really ruin your ability to get ahead in your career.

Imposter syndrome can also make it much harder to negotiate for things like a pay raise, a schedule change, a new job title or a job altogether. You may already feel like you’ve been given too much just by getting the job at all-asking for more can feel greedy or as though you don’t deserve it (even if everyone else says you do!) It’s also harder to say ‘no’ and manage your team, manager and customers, making it easier to get stressed and burned out which then feeds into the imposter syndrome!

Finally, imposter syndrome can leak into your correspondence. The language you use in your writing will be filled with tones of self-doubt, leading to a lot of apologizing or passive language ‘I’m just following up’, ‘I just think…’ This word, just, is a self-doubt word that makes you look down on yourself: ‘I’m just….’ It also leads you to compare your weaknesses to others strengths and that never goes over well.

Put it all together and many employees really struggle with feeling like they are defrauding everyone around them, making it much harder for them to negotiate for more perks on the jobs, get a new position, get promoted, say no to others and many other things, leading to greater stress, burn out and health problems. This in turn damages one’s ability to hold their job for a long period of time.

How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

All right, so you’re probably wondering how you deal with this. Imposter Syndrome has a serious impact on your life as a successful employee and even affects friendships, relationships and family relationships so what can be done to deal with it?

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others: This is really hard to do, but it’s also really important. It’s even harder in the age of social media where you can see the best of everyone (since that’s what’s most often posted) and you’re wondering why you aren’t doing as well as other people. But it’s important to remind yourself that you cannot see what problems other people are going through and furthermore that if you’re comparing yourself to other people, other people are comparing themselves to you and many of them probably feel the same way you do. Remember that no one else is you and you have worth and value.
  2. Celebrate your wins-from large to small. One way to do this is to do things like keep a journal at work or at home, a gratitude diary, or a blog to celebrate your victories and those are victories of all size. Finish that work project? Write it down! Walked 2 kilometers today? Write it down! If you can manage it, a small reward such as a treat or going out for lunch can be really helpful too as a way to make sure that you celebrate what you’ve completed.
  3. Focus on your value. Do you know the value of the skills you’ve picked up? How much is your ability to cook French cuisine worth? How much is your keyboarding skills worth? How much is your ability to work with others worth? If you want, check out jobs that focus on those skills and see how much they’re worth. You may be surprised by the value of your skills!
  4. Fake it. It won’t be easy, but sometimes you need to fake it and project the confidence you don’t feel until you end up feeling it out of habit. It takes a while, but it does happen over time as long as you keep trying.


Imposter syndrome is a very real feeling and it’s one which many highly successful people grapple with so you’re not alone. However, it’s very important to overcome and deal with it before it creates a toxic environment for you and your workplace. If you don’t feel like you deserve what you’ve been getting, you may have this syndrome and hopefully using these tips will help you out.

Sound off! Have you ever felt like you’re receiving accolades, job offers and other things that you don’t feel you deserve (even when everyone else says you do)?