Research shows Imposter Syndrome has a surprising positive side

(ORDO NEWS) — Many of us are familiar with the impostor syndrome: a feeling of doubt about our abilities and intelligence, and a feeling that at any moment we can be exposed as a fraud. It can be a debilitating mental condition, but a new study has found a positive side to it.

It turns out that people with impostor syndrome are more likely to be good team players with strong social skills in the workplace, according to an analysis of 3,603 employees across four different studies and experiments.

These attractive traits are also recognized by superiors, the study shows. Apparently, there is something in the feeling of inadequacy that makes people especially try to communicate with colleagues and clients who surround them.

“People who have thoughts of imposture in the workplace become more others-oriented,” says behavioral psychologist Basima Tufik of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Because they become more others-oriented, they are rated as more interpersonally effective.”

However, as research shows, this advantage in terms of interpersonal skills does not come at the expense of productivity in the office. In one group of employees at an investment firm, those with more self-styled thoughts were also rated as more effective in communicating with colleagues, which did not negatively impact work speed.

Another part of the study included a survey of students in the medical training program. Those who said they were more likely to have thoughts similar to impostor syndrome also tended to have better relationships with patients.

According to patients, those who internally felt the impostor syndrome considered these doctors to be more sympathetic, better able to listen and receive information from patients.

Based on these findings, thoughts of impostor in the workplace seem to lead to compensatory mechanisms, but Tufik doesn’t want to downplay the harm that impostor syndrome can do to mental health.

The new study also shows that the condition can lower people’s self-esteem, so it doesn’t look like these thoughts of being a hoax should be suddenly encouraged by managers.

“I found a positive net result, but there may be scenarios where this does not happen,” says Tufik. “If you work somewhere where you don’t have interpersonal interaction, it can be very bad if you have thoughts of imposture.”

The data collected by Tufik also suggests that thoughts of impostor syndrome are not necessarily permanent. As people get into stronger positions, in some cases they may worry less about being “recognized”.

Imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Klans and Suzanne Eames. It has been noted from the outset that people with this sense of “intellectual falsity” also display a high level of social skill.

In the new study, Tufik suggests that there is a need to reconsider the nature of what are considered self-styled thoughts associated with work. Further research is planned to explore how impostor syndrome may be related to other areas of work, including creativity and initiative.

“I don’t want people to carry with them the idea that because people with impostor thoughts are more effective interpersonally, that’s not a problem,” Tufik says.


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