New Line Manager’s Survival Guide: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

by Ben Richardson
28th October 2019    5 Minutes
Imposter Hiding Behind Jumper

As a new manger you may have many feelings racing through your head; Feelings of elation, positivity and excitement. But this can be jarred by the more negative thoughts of anxiety toward your new role. Why did they pick you? Are you the right person for the job? What if you fail? We can help you overcome the anxiety by equiping you with the skills needed to tackle the role on one of our management training courses.

These are all thoughts associated with Imposter Syndrome – otherwise known as Imposter Phenomenon – and unfortunately, many of us feel this way when presented with our dream job or promotion. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of us will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in our academic or professional careers.

The worry with this phenomenon is that you aren’t good enough or you aren’t supposed to be there and instead of congratulating yourself on your fantastic achievements or your ability to land your hard-earned promotion, you become filled with dread, waiting for someone to discover ‘the real you’ and catch you out.

But with access to the right information and helpful tips on how to deal with it, imposter syndrome doesn’t need to be the thing that keeps you up at night. When you can manage these fears and anxieties about your own capabilities, it can open up a whole new world of opportunity in your career.

What Exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the belief you are fraudulently claiming to be something you are not. It can affect people in all types of situations.

It was initially believed to mostly affect women in senior management roles, but studies have since shown that Imposter Syndrome holds no bias toward gender. It is a psychological pattern applicable to anybody of any gender, age or position.

If you are a newly promoted or hired member of a team, especially in a more senior role and have felt a nagging feeling that you don’t belong in that position and that you only got there through sheer luck, it is possible you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. On the flip side, you may know someone who is experiencing Imposter syndrome and recognising will mean you can help them to get it under control.

Even though it is not an officially diagnosed disorder, it is certainly recognised globally. Worldwide there are many campaigns to raise awareness of it to try to help young entrepreneurs, promoted seniors and workers of diverse backgrounds to overcome these thoughts that could have a crippling effect on their career.

Looking beyond individual issues with Imposter Syndrome, it ultimately can affect a company’s bottom line. It will impact their pipeline of talented executives as they progress through the ranks. Many companies now offer help via manager development programmes and coaching for people new to line management.

What most people don’t realise is that Imposter Syndrome is based on self-doubt. Until recently it was been very rarely talked about. If you are struggling with these types of feelings as a new manager, the chances are those around you have been through the same thing.

If you have a mentor it would make sense to speak to them. They can probably offer a useful perspective.

Signs of Imposter Syndrome

1. Perfectionism – While we all strive to be perfect in one way or another, perfectionism can be a dangerous trait to take with you to a new job or role as it usually means you are setting goals that may not be achievable. It can be an unhealthy and unrealistic approach to your work to take on more than you are likely to achieve and that will, in turn, cause fear of failure and self-doubt and ultimately becoming overly critical of yourself.

Example: You are unable to finish your delegated task in fear of it not being perfect and then being recognised as a fraud. You are unable to recognise the extended time spent on one task is the actual cause for concern and not how perfect it is upon completion.


2. Over-Working – As far as feeling like an imposter goes, this one can be harder to spot. You are always at the office, always taking work home with you and always accepting more work on top of work. Again, this relates to the fear of failure and inadequacy and uses work to hide it as well as convincing others that you are really happy in your job. You strive to reach a goal that shows everyone you can do whatever is thrown at you and that you are reliable.

Example: You have a deadline for a work project this Friday, but you have been asked to help with another project. You know you don’t have the time to do it all but convince yourself you will fit it in, even it if isn’t completed to the highest standard.


3. Individualism – You are highly likely to suffer Imposter Syndrome if you prefer to finish tasks on your own and tend refuse to ask for help when you need it. Individualists see asking for help as a negative trait and fear they will get caught out for not being able to do their job if they don’t do 100% of the work themselves. This high bar is achievable but in the long run will cause burnout and feelings of exclusion.

Example: You are stuck on a task that could have been finished a while ago but you refuse to ask for help to get it finished. Instead, you do what you think is right and cause anxiety in yourself wondering if you have actually completed the task correctly, this worry can magnify to the extent you are worring about how it will impact your performance review and company wide perception.

4. Soloist – Similar to individualism, the soloist wants to go it alone. Soloists seem more confident and will rarely be asked if they need help. If you have trouble delegating tasks to other team members or employees, then this could be you. Proving your worth feels like an extremely important part of not caught out for being the fraud you perceive yourself to be, even if it is not to the benefit of your team.

Example: An audit is due to take place at work and you realise there are tasks in different departments that need to be checked over. There is a lot to cover and most of it isn’t related to your role, but you would rather just get it done yourself, so you know it’s done. You will then take negative audit results personally.

How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

If you have seen yourself in any of the above traits or are worried in starting a role as a new manager that you may have anxiety toward what you are capable of or what is expected of you, remember to think about a few things before committing yourself to a life of self-doubt, stop listening to the voice in your head that doesn’t actually belong there:

  • Talk to someone if you are struggling with this self-belief. Whether your employer, a mentor, a friend or colleague, the reassurance in sharing anxieties will help show you are not in this alone.
  • Accept praise where praise is due. Unfortunately, it is a common train to not accept compliments well, but it is inevitably this kind of praise that we all need to boost our inner confidence.
  • Ask for clear goals from the start. As a new manager, this will help set the tone for what is expected of you, giving you comfortable limits that you can work toward.
  • Ask for feedback. Constructive feedback from direct managers will help to keep you on track and you can use these performance indicators to measure your own success in a logical manner against what is expected from you.
  • Seek help with your weaknesses instead of avoiding them and hoping they will go away. A line management role has a very broad set of responsibilities – see this article “What is a line manager” for full details. In a professional environment, this will be looked upon as a positive thing that shows you are willing to take on new challenges and you will feel like less of an imposter.
  • There will be aspects of your new job that you won’t know immediately, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t know everything straight away and won’t be expected to, this does not make you a fraud.
  • Taking on more work than you can mentally and physically handle will burn you out and inevitably cause you to feel like you are failing.
  • Remember, you deserve your new job/promotion – Almost like a mantra, believe this statement. You earned this on your own merits, and you were selected because you were the right person for the job.