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How Imposter Syndrome Affects Productivity

How Imposter Syndrome Affects Productivity

“Any day now, they’re going to realize what a mistake they made in hiring me”.

“Everyone around me seems so much more capable…” “I’ve got this role by sheer luck!”

Do these sound like thoughts that cross your mind? Do you feel like an imposter in the workplace? That there is a conflict “between your own self-perception and the ways others perceive you”? If so you may be feeling the effects of imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a cognitive distortion, involving feelings of self-doubt, lack of confidence and personal incompetence. This may result in you feeling like a “fraud” and doubting your own abilities. Imposter syndrome does not discriminate, meaning anyone can feel it, no matter what your background, gender, role etc.

The feeling of self-doubt persists regardless of what one may achieve, constantly feeling that it is not enough or up to expectation. Even when colleagues tell you otherwise you believe your successes lay down to ‘good luck’ and feel like you do not deserve them.

What causes Imposter Syndrome?

Family environment

The environment you are brought up in influences the pressure you feel to succeed and subsequently, feel like an imposter. For example, a family that prioritizes academic achievements and has high expectations of their children.

Social Pressures

We are living in a society where success is often seen as a measure of worth. As a result, individuals may feel that they are not successful enough and/or they do not deserve their success.

Personality traits

Your personality may make you more susceptible to Imposter Syndrome, for example some people have perfectionistic tendencies and/or have low self-confidence in themselves and their work.

New Responsibilities

Taking on new responsibilities can cause Imposter Syndrome, as the stress and transition can make people doubt their abilities to handle the new role. Additionally, you may feel like you do not deserve the role and do not believe you will be as good as everyone else.

The role of bias

Bias within the workplace can be a key contributor to feeling like an imposter. For example, people who are aware of bias against them, such as gender or race, may feel like they have to work harder to disprove harmful stereotypes and prove that they are deserving of their position.

How is Imposter Syndrome detrimental to productivity?


Whilst striving for perfectionism can achieve great results, it can also negatively impact productivity. Constantly striving for perfection, may result in spending excessive time on a project or task, which can result in missed deadlines and decreased efficiency.

Reduced Confidence

Imposter syndrome can lead to reduced confidence, which may stop individuals from achieving more and taking on new challenges as they do not believe they are not the right candidate to do so.


Self-doubt is another common symptom of imposter syndrome which can result in decreased productivity. Self-doubt can lead to overthinking, subsequently spending more time worrying than on the project at hand.

A fear of failure

Many people who experience imposter syndrome also may experience the fear of failure. The fear of failure may result in an individual being unwilling to try new things and take on more responsibility etc.


Burnout is a very real possibility to those suffering from imposter syndrome. When someone is constantly pushing themselves to prove their worth, this can result in exhaustion and decreased motivation, decreasing productivity and efficiency.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Challenge negative thoughts 

Acknowledging and challenging negative thoughts are important steps in overcoming imposter syndrome. It is important to challenge your thoughts and realize a lot of the time they are not based on reality. By challenging these thoughts and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you can prove to yourself that you are capable of much more than you thought!

Ask for help

It is important to ask for help and reach out to someone. Let them know how you are feeling, whether that be family, friends or a mental health professional. Doing so can help take the weight off your shoulders and allow you to gain some outside context on the situation.

Keep a record of positive feedback

Imposter syndrome can make you feel like that you aren’t good at anything, and often any praise you receive is either unfalse or a fluke. But to beat it, it is good to look back at previous positive feedback you have received in the past to remind yourself that your feelings of inadequacy and failure are not based on fact. So fight your feelings with the evidence, and use it to build up your confidence!

Set realistic goals

Imposter syndrome may lead you to feel you have to do everything, even the unattainable, in order to prove your worth and that you are capable. To overcome this, it is integral that you focus on setting achievable goals that are challenging yet doable.

Think about the 80:20 rule

Imposter Syndrome can leave you spending more time on work than is necessary, but this extra time may not be achieving anything at all. The 80:20 rule holds that it isn’t about doing more work but about spending energy on the
right work. So, to overcome the feelings of imposter syndrome it is important to understand where your effort goes and instead focus your efforts onto the work that matters most.

Key Takeaway

  • The feelings of imposter syndrome are nothing to be ashamed of, and in fact very common. Caused by a variety of factors such as family environments, social pressure, personality traits, new responsibilities and bias.
  • Imposter syndrome can be detrimental to your productivity due to reduced confidence, self-doubt, perfectionism etc.
  • So if you are feeling like an imposter at work and it’s affecting your productivity, you are not alone and should not worry! The good news is there are ways you can overcome it!
  • By taking these steps you can regain your confidence, improve your productivity and achieve your full potential!
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