What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you haven’t earned your success, you simply got lucky, and you’re a fraud or “imposter” around people who actually earned it and know what they’re doing. It makes one feel that they do not have the skills or expertise to hold their current job, but instead made it there “by chance;” they think if anyone found out how little they know about their job, they’d be fired immediately.

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you haven’t earned your success, you simply got lucky, and you’re a fraud or “imposter” around people who actually earned it and know what they’re doing.

What’s an example of Imposter Syndrome?

  • Feeling like everyone around you knows what they’re doing and you don’t

  • Feeling like you “snuck” into a job without anyone noticing that you’re unqualified

  • Feeling like you don’t deserve accolades you receive

How does Imposter Syndrome affect people at work?

Imposter Syndrome can cause people to doubt themselves and their ideas at work. This can lead people to avoid sharing their work, leading initiatives, or pursuing challenging tasks for fear of being discovered as an “imposter.”

What can you do if you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome at work?

If you’ve experienced this feeling, you are not alone. Many people feel this way. Remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in to get to this position. Seek out a trusted peer, or even a mentor, who you feel comfortable confiding in. Chances are, they’ve had their own experience with Imposter Syndrome. You can also reach out to a sounding board like Empower Work if you prefer to talk to a peer counselor immediately and anonymously.

It often helps to take a second and reframe the situation from one where people will find out you’re a fraud to one with a variety of positive outcomes. When sizing up a difficult project, try to think of it as an opportunity for growth. When you hit a problem you don’t know how to solve, understand that you could get the work done better and more quickly if you ask for help or clarification. And when you catch yourself thinking you don’t have any skill in your current field, remember that the more you practice at something, the better you get at it.


If you’ve experienced this feeling, you are not alone. Many people feel this way. Remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in to get to this position.

What can you do if you notice a coworker who might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome?

Make sure they feel supported and respected by others. Encourage them to share their ideas. Recognize their work.

If you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome at work, you’re not alone. Text 510-674-1414 to get in touch with a trained peer counselor immediately and anonymously. Talk through the situation and explore ways forward. Support is just a text away.