How to deal with imposter syndrome in new management

Bev CouzensNews & Events

Most senior managers will have someone in their team suffering from this syndrome, although they’ll likely be hiding it well. It starts with a feeling of having faked their way into a job, or having just been lucky, and can manifest in low self-esteem, self-deprecation, workaholism or even work avoidance. In our experience, this is more prevalent in those setting out on a new path, so it tends to torment newly promoted managers who might be doubting their leadership capabilities. Self-doubt is only human, but when pushed to an extreme it can affect morale and cause stress, resulting in a significant negative impact on a team, a person’s ability to perform in their role, and, ultimately, their productivity.

One of the best methods senior managers can use to banish imposter syndrome is to talk openly about it: awareness is key to dispelling that nagging voice of uncertainty. If managers understand that it is a very real experience, they are more likely to identify it in themselves. Knowing that others in the same company might be experiencing similar feelings can also help, so open discussion and peer-to-peer mentoring can be invaluable. It’s vital for managers to own their success, and to learn to accept achievements for themselves, as well as their teams. When evaluating a project, leaders should offer specific praise – acknowledging how a manager facilitated, guided or encouraged a team’s success. Many of those experiencing imposter syndrome are perfectionists, setting themselves unrealistically high goals and feeling shame if they fall short in any way. Senior managers can support this by working with their reports to set realistic, challenging but achievable goals, and encouraging them to see mistakes or short-comings as learning experiences that will help them grow in their role.

If you are looking to help your managers overcome imposter syndrome, it might be worth having a chat. All our conversations are treated confidentially. You can get in touch by calling 01594 564803 or emailing