Supporting a co-worker with imposter syndrome can make a big difference when it comes to helping them regain their confidence. Here’s how to do it.
It can be frustrating to witness a colleague – especially a talented and dedicated colleague – in the throes of a bad bout of imposter syndrome. We’ve written about imposter syndrome before at SiliconRepublic.com. But most of the articles we’ve written on the subject have been geared towards sufferers themselves.
Seeing as a lot of the advice out there for people with imposter syndrome tells them to find a mentor or a trusted colleague to confide in, we decided to put together some advice for anyone who is working with a person suffering from imposter syndrome. Knowing the right words of encouragement and the best approach to take with a co-worker who is feeling bad about their own capabilities is not always easy. It takes empathy, encouragement, perspective and even a little bit of ‘tough love’ at times.
Reassure them they are not alone
If you’re in a position to provide mentoring or feedback on how a colleague can overcome some of their confidence issues, then do. Nurturing a talented colleague who doesn’t realise their own potential can help them blossom into a capable team member – and who knows, they may even be able to pay the favour forward by mentoring someone else in the future.
Imposter syndrome doesn’t have to be permanent and the more it’s talked about and the more people are helped to confront it, the easier it gets to defeat it. It can be helpful for leaders and mentors to share their own stories of how they struggle with imposter syndrome sometimes. It can be very isolating to feel like you’re not good enough at your job, but realising that other people at work suffer or have suffered in the past can be comforting.
Be honest, not falsely positive
A person with imposter syndrome knows their flaws only too well. They are self-aware but often not enough to realise their potential. Glossing over their flaws and the areas where they could improve isn’t going to help them in the long run. Don’t sugarcoat things for them – if they need to work on something, they most likely know that. But they might be overwhelmed and that leads to negative thoughts and self-talk. Give them some coping mechanisms or practical advice on how they can improve. Emphasise what they are good at and explain why their particular skills and traits are valuable.
Have an open-door policy
Keep an eye on your team and its dynamics. Ensure that people can come and air their concerns with you when something bothers them. Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins where you can evaluate each worker and find out how they are.
All workers are different and some may be overly brash with a tendency to take over from quieter employees. Treat everyone equally and encourage people who may not feel as comfortable speaking out to contribute ideas. Sometimes this can take a bit of coaxing but a workplace with only a few voices contributing is not going to function well long term.
Some team members may feel like they have nothing worth contributing, but obviously this isn’t true – they were hired for a reason. Remind them of that and remind them that they can talk to you if they need to.
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