As the workplace evolves into allowing more employees to work remotely or in a hybrid situation, there’s evidence they are more susceptible to developing imposter syndrome. Leaders are now faced with the challenge of knowing how to support remote employees through their bouts of feeling isolated and having low self-esteem.
High achievers and perfectionists on your team are typically the most prone to the self-doubt and negative self-talk that is associated with imposter syndrome so it’s critical to recognize the early signs of their distress especially when they work remotely most of the time. The best managers will provide extra support specifically to help them overcome their feelings of inadequacy.
How to Support Remote Employees
Start off with a virtual open-door policy. Your team needs to trust you enough to share their thoughts. Try to respond to text messages or chats as soon as possible to address their concerns. Schedule weekly check-ins to monitor how they’re doing.
Provide mentors. As part of your onboarding process, appoint a mentor for each team member. If your employee works in a hybrid situation, make sure they are meeting with their mentor when they’re in the office.
Create a supportive workplace culture. Take a step back and reflect on how you treat employees when they mess up. If they get a clear message that you see their mistakes as a learning opportunity rather than a failure, then they will be more apt to avoid feelings of shame and self-doubt.
Be on the lookout for signs of impostor syndrome. You might hear self-deprecating remarks, see lower levels of input, and a reluctance to express a point of view during video calls, especially those involving multiple people. Take note if a team member exhibits these behaviors and schedule a “no-agenda” check-in to see how they’re feeling.
Don’t argue with their inner critic. You might be inclined to say things like “Yes, you can” or “You’re doing a great job” because you think that’s what they want to hear, but in fact, you’re arguing with their inner voice that’s telling them, “I can’t do this” or “I don’t have what it takes”.
Because their inner critic is not based on any kind of data, you’re really just increasing their over-reactive fears of vulnerability and failure. Getting compliments and praise actually can add to the stressful feelings of being an imposter. They might be telling themselves that “No one around me realizes that I really don’t know what I’m doing, and they are all counting on me, thinking I can pull this off – but I can’t!”
Instead, bring up the topic of these self-doubts that you’re witnessing in them and provide them with fact-based realistic alternatives to their negative self-talk as shown in this chart. Work with them to recognize this kind of thinking for what it is – irrational and destructive and that they can choose not to let them fester.
If you’re sensing that your employee needs additional support that’s out of your expertise, help them seek professional coaching.