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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in a Flexible Working Environment

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome in a flexible working environment

In today’s rapidly evolving work landscape, flexible working has become the new normal for many professionals, bringing its own unique challenges and opportunities.

Imposter Syndrome is a challenge that many people experience. It’s a mindset where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. More than 70% of the workforce is affected by imposter thoughts at one time or another. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone, however those that work flexibly can sometimes experience it with the added complexity of working in different locations and different patterns than their office-based colleagues.

In our recent webinar, Sarah Farmer, Global Executive Coach at EMR Consulting Ltd, shed light on this pervasive issue and provided invaluable insights into understanding and overcoming Imposter Syndrome. In this post, we’ll delve into the common triggers of Imposter Syndrome in flexible working, explore its impact, and equip you with practical tips and tools to address it head-on.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome, a term first introduced in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, has become a widely recognised phenomenon.

At its core, Imposter Syndrome is characterised by an internal struggle with self-doubt and feelings of incompetence, even in the face of evident success.

Individuals grappling with this syndrome often experience a persistent fear of being exposed as imposters, leading to heightened anxiety, insecurity, and a fear of failure.

What are the types of Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome can manifest in various ways, and individuals may experience one or more types simultaneously. Here are some common types of Imposter Syndrome:

  1. The Perfectionist: This type of imposter feels a constant need to excel and achieve perfection in every task. They set excessively high standards for themselves and often fear being exposed as inadequate if they make even minor mistakes.
  2. The Expert: Individuals with this type of Imposter Syndrome believe they must know everything before taking on a task or accepting recognition for their work. They feel the need to be an expert in all areas and fear being seen as incompetent or lacking knowledge.
  3. The Natural Genius: People with this type of Imposter Syndrome believe they should effortlessly excel in all areas without much effort or struggle. They may feel inadequate and experience self-doubt when they encounter challenges or need to put in extra effort to succeed.
  4. The Soloist: Soloists feel they must accomplish tasks on their own and are hesitant to ask for help or support. They fear that seeking assistance may reveal their incompetence or dependence on others.
  5. The Superhero: This type of Imposter Syndrome manifests in individuals who take on excessive workloads and responsibilities, going above and beyond what is expected of them. They fear disappointing others and feel the need to prove their worth through constant overachievement.
  6. The Outsider: People with this type of Imposter Syndrome feel like they don’t belong or that they are different from their colleagues or peers. They may attribute their achievements to external factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time, rather than recognising their own capabilities.

It’s important to note that these types are not mutually exclusive, and individuals can experience a combination of different Imposter Syndrome types. Recognising and understanding these types can help individuals and organisations address and support individuals dealing with Imposter Syndrome.

How does Imposter Syndrome hinder us from progressing as an employer or employee?

As humans, we’re hardwired to resist change, and this can impede our journey toward growth and advancement. To truly flourish, individuals and organisations must summon the courage, self-assurance, and confidence necessary to embrace uncharted territories and break free from their comfort zones.

Despite the increasing adoption of a growth mindset, many still hold tight to fixed perspectives regarding flexible working arrangements. Many employees are hesitant about flexible working because they’re still determining if it will be successful for them. At the same time, employers are also concerned about how it will affect their operations.

In our recent webinar, Sarah Farmer remarked, “It’s that fear that’s fuelling the problem, which we can together overcome.” By recognising and confronting these apprehensions head-on, we can unite to forge a more adaptable, resilient, and efficient workforce that thrives in the face of change.

What are the main factors that influence Imposter Syndrome in flexible working environments – and how can you overcome them?

Value

When employees feel they need to be valued more, it’s likely due to a lack of clarity in their job expectations, performance feedback, rewards, and support for growth. Effective communication is essential to address these issues and ensure employees understand their company’s vision and goals and how their contributions align with the bigger picture.

If you’re experiencing Imposter Syndrome while working flexibly, it can be helpful to evaluate your understanding of your organisation’s vision and goals and check that your leader and critical stakeholders share the same understanding. It’s also essential to assess whether your colleagues recognise your value and can see how your work contributes to the company’s objectives.

Believing in your value and abilities is vital to overcome the Imposter Syndrome mindset. By regularly communicating your accomplishments and seeking feedback, you can help others around you recognise your worth and, in turn, boost your confidence in your ability to contribute effectively in a flexible working environment.

 

Fair pay & equality

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not receiving equal treatment or fair pay, it’s essential first to assess whether you’ve advocated for yourself by asking for what you deserve. If you’ve taken this step and still face resistance, it’s time to investigate the root cause.

Is the issue stemming from a lack of communication and understanding, or is it due to a toxic workplace culture that undervalues and devalues its employees? Education and open dialogue with your employer may sometimes be necessary to bridge the gap. However, if your gut feeling tells you that something isn’t right, it’s essential to trust your instincts and gather the facts.

Recognising your worth and being prepared to stand up for yourself, whether negotiating for better compensation or seeking a more supportive work environment, is essential.

Career progression

Should flexible working affect your career progression? Ideally, in a forward-thinking organisation, the answer will be a resounding “No.” However, in some organisations, it sometimes can – unless you take critical steps to safeguard your growth and dig deep into your own emotional intelligence.

When joining an organisation, it’s essential to thoroughly research and understand their stance on flexible working and ensure they offer progression opportunities for those who choose this path. Feel free to ask about these opportunities; if they’re non-existent, consider it a red flag. As a flexible worker, sharing your motivations and aspirations with your employer is vital, helping them see the benefits of supporting your growth in a non-traditional work arrangement. Make a point to include your flexible working goals in every personal development plan and communicate them with your team. Employers must also recognise the value of accommodating flexible workers; otherwise, they risk losing exceptional talent to their more forward-thinking competitors.

Visibility

Another challenge flexible workers can occasionally face, and that links to value, as discussed above, is visibility within the organisation. Working remotely, compressed hours, or different patterns to colleagues can mean that sometimes you feel less seen.

This can manifest itself in feelings of Imposter Syndrome in several ways. It can lead to feeling as though bosses and colleagues are less aware of you and your impact on the company or worries that you’re seen as less committed because you aren’t in the office 9-5.

However, it’s important to remember that you offer unique value to an organisation, whatever your working pattern may be. You bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion to the role – and your commitment is no less than someone who works in a more traditional style.

So, what strategies can you use to overcome Imposter Syndrome in this scenario?

Assessing whether your thoughts and feelings are based on reality or personal insecurities is helpful. Open discussions with your leaders are a great way to express your feelings and have input into how the company can better facilitate a flexible working environment. This could involve implementing various solutions, from strategies to increase visibility in team meetings to more regular touch-points with management.

How to take control of Imposter Syndrome

Employers and employees must break free from a fixed mindset and embrace flexibility in today’s fast-paced work environment. As an employer, taking control of this mindset means recognising the value of flexible working arrangements and promoting employee equality. You can do this by constantly sharing the benefits of flexibility, planning for your flexible employees’ career progression, and frequently communicating the ‘why’ behind flexible working in your organisation. This will help increase understanding and eliminate any misconceptions of unfairness among your team members.

On the other hand, as an employee, it’s crucial to believe in your worth and understand that you deserve a work-life balance tailored to your needs. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back; you deserve to work in a way you want and need. By adopting this mindset, you’ll feel more confident in your abilities and more committed to your job. Ultimately, taking control of a fixed mindset paves the way for a healthier, happier, and more productive work environment for everyone involved.

Remember, flexible working doesn’t equal less value; don’t let Imposter Syndrome discourage you from taking advantage of the exciting flexible working opportunities available!

Conclusion

In conclusion, Imposter Syndrome is a common challenge faced by many individuals in flexible working environments. However, by understanding its impact and implementing practical strategies, both employers and employees can overcome it.

Creating a culture that values open communication and supports growth is crucial. Employers should provide clarity in job expectations, offer regular feedback, and recognise employees’ value and contributions. Employees, in turn, can actively communicate their achievements and seek feedback to reinforce their confidence.

Taking control of Imposter Syndrome requires a shift in mindset. Employers should recognise the value of flexibility and promote equality, while employees must believe in their worth and embrace the work-life balance they deserve.

Flexible working does not diminish an individual’s value. By addressing Imposter Syndrome head-on and embracing the opportunities of flexible work, both employers and employees can create a positive, productive, and fulfilling work environment. You deserve to thrive in the flexible working landscape, so don’t let Imposter Syndrome hold you back from realising your full potential.

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