Surprising Early Result From The 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study

Think that impostor syndrome isn't bothering your business? This early finding from the 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study might change your mind on that. All business leaders need to know this.

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Think that impostor syndrome isn’t bothering your business? This early finding from the 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study might change your mind on that. All business leaders need to know this.

I’m so impatient to see the results of the 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study that I had a nosey in the data this morning and got a big surprise. And it’s one that all business leaders and managers need to know about.

Last week I ran a training session for the leaders of a multinational company on ditching impostor syndrome. There was plenty of nodding in recognition of the symptoms and business-damaging effects of impostor syndrome as I took them through how to spot it in their teams, in themselves, and two practical ‘quick fix’ techniques to help people when impostor syndrome strikes.

My big message was about how we need to open up the conversation on this, so that talking about ‘feeling like a fraud’ becomes as acceptable as asking for, say, time management training.

And, as always, there was a sprinkling of “head-shakers.”

I love to get to chat with these people afterwards, because they tend to be the ones who don’t really believe that impostor syndrome is a ‘thing’ or that it deserves airtime. And that’s fine, as long as it isn’t affecting them at a subconscious level or anyone in their team. Which is never the case.

“Prove it!” is what they regularly come back to me with. So this morning’s ferreting around in the initial quantitative study data from the 2019 Impostor Syndrome Study survey set me on a trail to see what the respondents were saying. And those head-shakers are in for a shock.

The survey has been completed by business leaders, whether or not they believe they have impostor syndrome. And today’s unofficial early data popped up two fascinating facts:

  1. Of those in senior positions who said they “never” get impostor Syndrome, 100 percent showed clear signs of it, both in their self-talk and their actions.
  2. Of those respondents who said they didn’t know what impostor syndrome is, 75 percent showed clear signs of it — and that figure rose to 100 percent for those employed in senior roles.

Obviously, this is still early data (though statistically significant) and I want more respondents to complete the survey. But as an indication as to how widespread impostor syndrome is in leadership roles, it’s unignorable.

Talking to large businesses and SMEs, and the business leaders who were interviewed in the qualitative phase of the 2019 Impostor Syndrome study, I have found clear trends that, for example, senior women who leave to get a new promotion-level role and pay rise with another company often did so because they didn’t feel they could ask for that with their previous employer — due to impostor syndrome.

Their employer loses the leader’s genius due to their own fear of ‘being found out as a fraud’.

And there’s more already from the survey:

A shocking 55 percent of senior business leaders have not asked for a pay rise they knew they deserved or gone for a promotion they knew they were capable of in the past few years, due to impostor syndrome. This will have a measurable effect on leadership development, business performance and the gender pay gap.

The split on this was 67 percent for senior women and 32 percent for senior men. Yes, impostor syndrome hits men, too.

Yet few companies offer any form of impostor syndrome training — either on how to spot it in your team before it becomes an issue or how to clear it in yourself.

This goes beyond the obvious mental health and well-being discussion for employees. It’s also about talent retention and leadership development.

Given that the costs of impostor Syndrome in a business include productivity, performance, team morale, missed opportunities, subconscious sabotage of key projects, as well as the obvious mental health issues, we need to stop ignoring it.

The myths that you just have to ‘put up with it’ or ‘push on through’ actually make the situation worse. There is plenty you can do to clear it fast, when you know how to work with individuals and teams on this at the root cause level.

If you’d like to discuss how ditching impostor syndrome might make a huge difference for your business, please get in touch to book a call.

And if you would like to complete the survey (or even send it round your company’s leaders), you can find it here:

And on the survey’s ‘thank you’ page, there’s the option to register to get a copy of the key results, once the study has been completed.

#impostersyndrome #businessleaders #entrepreneurs

Clare Josa: Author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome

Clare Josa has spent the past eighteen years specialising in helping senior business leaders and their teams to ditch impostor syndrome. She uses her expertise in performance psychology to help business leaders to lead from their heart in a head-based world.

As a Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma engineer and former Head of Market Research for one of the world’s most disruptive corporations, Clare brings decades of experience in creating business breakthroughs, without the burnout.

She is passionate about helping businesses to achieve company-wide shifts in performance, productivity and innovation processes, through her work with their leaders and leadership teams.

Clare speaks internationally on how to change the world by changing yourself.

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