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I could take the expected and predictable detour and give an introductory message about what I mean by inadequacy or imposter syndrome like you don’t already know the meaning of those words.

And that’s exactly what I’ll do. Imposter syndrome is a feeling that you are undeserving of your job or your accomplishments in the workplace. People with this syndrome doubt their abilities and constantly feel fraudulent, with fear of getting exposed someday. There’s a feeling of inadequacy with imposter syndrome even with apparent success and achievements, hence the reason it is also called perceived inadequacy. Inadequacy is a feeling or a condition of not being enough or good enough.   

“In the workspace, predominantly the tech workspace, there is a prevalent feeling of inadequacy” – Blind, anonymous professional social network. According to this survey, 58% of techies working in Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Uber, Oracle, LinkedIn, Airbnb amongst others admitted they have imposter syndrome. The International Journal of Behavioral Science also cited that 70% of people have experienced imposter syndrome or some form of inadequacy at some point in their life. This is independent of the industry they work in.       

EVERYONE has felt inadequate at some point in their life. Remember your first day on the job? I bet the new environment intimidated you and even your co-workers with their darned self-assuredness intimidated you. You probably spent the first month feeling your way in the dark, just winging it, and scared stiff you would make a mistake. Or maybe you were given a task that you were absolutely sure would expose you as the neophyte you are or worse still, a dunce. The studies referenced previously prove that everyone, from executives, managers, to operational staff, has felt this way or will potentially feel this way when thrown into a project they have never done before.

Inadequacy as a barrier to productivity

Feelings of inadequacy and the fears that come along with it can be crippling, causing you to make mistakes and second-guess your decisions. Some staff fold under the pressure, they could even quit their jobs, or change career paths entirely. It slows down productivity because the staff is always looking to someone to validate their work and reassure them on every single thing they need to do. This is different from carrying your team along, giving a status report on a project, or asking for help when you need it. It reduces confidence and growth in workers.

Turning the tide

Some workers naturally overcome their inadequacy on their own. Given time and opportunity, they can build skills, relationships, and the confidence needed to excel in the workplace. However, this comes with work and conscious effort. You need to intentionally not run away from things that intimidate you. See the uncertainty as an opportunity to learn and grow. Workers plagued with feelings of inadequacy are predominantly bound to end in two ways, to improve or cede. When faced with challenges that seem beyond us, we must strive to garner and develop the skills required to make the job successful and improve our individual lives as well. Do not be ashamed/too proud to ask for help, no one knows it all. Lastly, colleagues must learn to teach and transfer knowledge with patience and clarity. We grow when we learn from each other.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly” – Robert F. Kennedy.

This article was written by Adesuwa Omoregbe (Project Manager)

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