Research among more than 500 UK adults carried out by media agency UM has found that while only 15 per cent of UK adults know what imposter syndrome (IS) is, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) have suffered from it at some point in their lives. The company suggests UK businesses may need to take this into account in their employee development and talent retention efforts. The study asked people if they had ever felt undeserving of praise or rewards, felt unaccomplished or been fearful that they would be publicly revealed to be as not as smart as others think. It also asked if they had ever thought they didn’t deserve the success they’d attained, deliberately downplayed their efforts or considered their accomplishments to be a fluke. More than three-quarters agreed with at least one of these statements.
It revealed that office workers and those in professional services were the most likely among all those in full-time employment to suffer from IS – behind only school and university students.
It is also something that affects both genders: 45 per cent of sufferers are men and 55 per cent women, busting the myth that it primarily affects females in the workplace. Those aged 18-24 are also 19 per cent more likely than the average adult to experience imposter syndrome. In addition, BAME adults are half as likely as white people to know what imposter syndrome is (9 per cent, vs. 18 per cent of white adults), but 15 per cent more likely to experience it.
“With 77 per cent of the UK population experiencing imposter syndrome, it makes sense that a lot of those people come across as confident,” said Franky Farmer, strategy director at UM. “This is really the epitome of IS: outwardly you can appear to be the most confident person in the room, but there’s a nagging, underlying feeling that you’re ‘winging it’. The good news is that you’re not alone.
“With the growth in influencer culture and an increasing trend to use social media to show people always living their ‘best lives’,” Farmer added, “it’s also no surprise that more young people are left feeling like imposters. It’s not just an issue for HR teams, but for every workplace that wants to ensure their employees are feeling empowered to own their achievements and successes.”