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How to combat imposter syndrome

The past year of remote work has fuelled some troubling trends. According to Asana’s 2021 Anatomy of Work Index, 69% of UK workers experienced imposter syndrome last year but only 15% feel ‘heard’ and empowered to speak up at work.

Remote work played a significant part in this increase. Without the natural water-cooler conversations, or comfort of an in-person one-to-one, it’s easy to push these issues aside without seeking resolution.

However, there are steps you can take in a remote setting to change that.



Understand when someone is giving you feedback (and when they’re not)

With most communication taking place in writing, it can be easy to mistake a simple comment for a harsh critique. To make sure you understand your teammates, don’t be afraid to ask for a quick chat, via phone call or video.

On the call, ask questions to get clarity on what the other person shared. Often, it’s helpful to simply ask 'is this feedback?'. What you perceive as feedback or critique could just as well be a piece of information.

Get clear on expectations

With imposter syndrome, you’re more likely to avoid asking clarifying questions when receiving a new project. Before you dive in, get clear on what is expected of you.

Is there a specific amount of time you’re meant to spend on the project? What’s the goal? It may be quality of work, speed, or something more personal like your learning and development.

If you’re feeling unsure about your work a few days in, ask for early feedback. Questions such as: 'I’ve started to work on this project, can you let me know whether I’m on the right track?' are a good start. That way, you have an opportunity to get input before putting yourself out there after you’ve spent all your time on the project.

Chances are your manager will either say the project is done or point you in the right direction.

Create regular opportunities to work with your peers

Working remotely can separate you from feeling connected and accountable to your teammates. Ask someone on your team if they’d be up for some regular one-on-one pairing with your team. This is a great way to develop professionally and build relationships.


Make an effort to find a mentor


Building a community of people around you is important to combating feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. But finding opportunities to connect with people is hard, especially when you’re remote, feeling disconnected from your team and surrounded by distractions at home.

Ask people you know if they can introduce you to other people in your industry, but outside of your organisation. You could try asking your manager to introduce you to someone from their network.



Track your learning

When we experience imposter syndrome, we are less likely to acknowledge our successes. When thinking about success, remember that achievements are not based on how much work you do but what you’ve learned in the process.

When reflecting on your achievements, look at what you learned from your latest project and what you can do better. Look at the complexity of the work you are working on now versus a month ago.

Are you able to do the work more seamlessly or with less external support? Chances are, you’ve learned more than you think.

Understand how success in your role is measured


Especially when falling into a downward spiral of self-doubt, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to our teammates. But it’s important to remember that their success may be measured differently than our own.

Work with your manager to get clarity on the daily, weekly, and monthly expectations they have of you in your specific role. That way, when you start comparing yourself to others, you’ll be able to remind yourself that they are measured on things completely different from what you are.

Sonja Gittens-Ottley is head of diversity and inclusion at Asana


Further reading:

Female and younger leaders more susceptible to imposter syndrome

How imposter syndrome and racism overlap