How to help your employees overcome imposter syndrome, according to psychologist

Starting a new job can be tough and when we achieve a new position in our careers, it can feel a little like we’re faking it to make it. Imposter Syndrome, which is experienced by over 60% of UK workers, is experienced commonly as we take on more responsibility.

Solopress undertook research to determine which UK cities demonstrate the highest levels of concern around Imposter Syndrome. They have also sought the expert opinion of Chantal Gautier, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Westminster, who offers a psychological analysis of the results, as well as offering tips for individuals and businesses to help support those dealing with Imposter Syndrome.

The UK Cities that experience the most Imposter Syndrome

Using Google search volume data, Solopress has calculated the average monthly searches for Imposter Syndrome per 10,000 people, in the 30 most populous cities in the UK.

Mancunians seem to have the greatest concern around Imposter Syndrome, with 22 average searches per 10,000 people every month, followed by those living in Leeds, Birmingham, and London.

The top 10 UK Cities that experience the most Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

Chantal suggests that ‘our most diverse and multicultural cities seem to be Imposter Syndrome hotspots’, which is reflected in the data that we see above.

She says “One contributing factor is the intricate interplay between local demographics and socio-economic circumstances. Cities with higher Imposter Syndrome rates might exhibit a greater representation of women and minority groups in their labour force.

It’s worth mentioning that London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds double as prominent University cities and research shows that Imposter Syndrome is not only confined to the professional realm, but students too, are susceptible to its effects, particularly those from minority backgrounds.”

The 10 Cities that experience the least Imposter Syndrome in the UK

Imposter Syndrome

The city searching for Imposter Syndrome the least is Newport, with less than 1 search per 10,000 people a month, followed by Blackpool (2 searches) and Sunderland (3 searches).

It’s interesting that these three cities are port cities - known for their heavy industry, rather than service-based jobs.

Thus, Imposter Syndrome may be less common in manufacturing and logistics sectors where workers can see the physical result of their efforts -unlike in office work where the outcomes are often more abstract.

Expert shares 5 tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome

  • Recognise that you’re experiencing Imposter Syndrome - This will help you to identify negative thinking traps. Once you realise that Imposter Syndrome has caused you to become stuck in an unhelpful cycle of thoughts, you can use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to help challenge those negative thoughts and turn your mood around.
  • Learn to ask for what you need - Asking for support is actually a sign of strength. Struggling in silence can be very lonely in the workplace. Break the silence and seek out support as soon as you can to avoid a build-up of work and worry.
  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself - Remind yourself of successes and wins. Keep a list of your achievements and nice things and compliments people have said about you and your work – dig it out when Imposter Syndrome sets in.
  • Focus on self-validation versus external validation - When praise from others isn’t forthcoming, it can be time to look inside for some encouragement. Set realistic goals that challenge you and reward yourself for completing them.
  • Reframe negative self-talk - No one’s perfect, and mistakes do not equal failure. Try to regard learning experiences as growth, rather than a shortfall or skill deficit. This will help to validate feelings of self-worth.

Expert shares 5 tips for businesses to support employees experiencing Imposter Syndrome

  • Create psychologically safe working climates - Colleagues will be more likely to open up about their vulnerabilities in a space where judgement is suspended in favour of a nurturing environment. Encourage conversations at all levels - often people who struggle with Imposter Syndrome will often appear lonely, and will benefit greatly from social interaction.
  • Encourage healthy work/life balances - Work is a big part of many people’s lives, but it should always be balanced with the individual’s need for rest and relaxation. Feelings of inadequacy spawned from Imposter Syndrome can lead to a vicious cycle in which individuals overwork, miss out on rest and struggle to perform.
  • Celebrate successes and avoid a blame culture - Foster environments that encourage growth, and succession planning. Don’t blame or punish people when they make mistakes.
  • Adopt mentoring and coaching practices - One-to-one guidance from more experienced colleagues can help those new to the workforce to feel supported.
  • Spotting Imposter Syndrome - Keep an eye on colleagues who seem to be struggling or show signs of anxiety. Look for warning signs such as withdrawal from team interactions, a tendency to overwork, or habitual procrastination. Recognising these red flags can be the first step in offering support and addressing the issue.