Advanced search

Grasp the next rung of the career ladder

Find jobs that fit your skills and your home life with Mumsnet jobs

See all jobs »

How do you cope with feeling like a fraud?

(32 Posts)
sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:04:04

How do you cope with feeling like a fraud at work? I have worked in the same organisation for several years and have worked my way up being promoted to a reasonably senior level.

I am pretty convinced that the only reason I'm still in the job is that no-one has found out just how incompetent I am or that I will prove to be incompetent at the next project I am involved in or that I will make a really bad mistake some day soon. I am also convinced that my team merely tolerate me and would like to have a different manager who is more... well more something or at least not me.

Work is pretty stressful too with continual reorganisations and demands with barely adequate resources. I do try my best but it never seems enough and then I come home and it's much the same there, too.

I sometimes think I should resign before something bad happens and I'm found out. I recently had an interview for a side-ways move but didn't get the job as I think they could see what I am really like whereas in my current role they are stuck with me until I do something wrong. I can't see a solution to any of this.

bluejeans Sat 15-Oct-11 00:08:13

I think you have imposter syndrome. I know exactly how you feel - I've only overcome it by changing company several times. I don't feel very assertive at work (although better than I used to be) - I've had good advice on here which I'll link if I can find it

trixymalixy Sat 15-Oct-11 00:08:22

You've just got to realise that everybody else thinks like that too!! I have spoken about his with my friends and we all feel the same, no matter how confident we might appear on the inside.

grumplestilskin Sat 15-Oct-11 00:10:15

YEAH! i've felt like that too, but everyone's "faking it till they make it" too so you might as well get the promotions as the others are no better wink

bluejeans Sat 15-Oct-11 00:11:48

sanecatlady this is my thread from a couple of years ago - in case it's useful

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 15-Oct-11 00:15:39

what makes you think you can't do your job, or that you are going to make a mistake??

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:20:44

That's really interesting to know that you have felt like this too Bluejeans, Trixy and grumple. I wouldn't feel able to admit it to friends or colleagues as it would feel like a loss of face. But the thing is, in your cases you probably just feel like an imposter whereas I really am one!

Thanks bluejeans I'll check out your thread now.

PessimisticMissPiggy Sat 15-Oct-11 00:26:52

You're feelings are really common. It's called imposter syndrome. It's especially common in women.

I spent a number of years in my job (i'm a senior professional) feeling that someone was 'going to find me out' and I'd lie awake at night worrying about it. This would especially happen before important meetings. If they went well, I'd think it was because of a fluke (rather than working damn hard and knowing my stuff) making me feel worse. If it went badly I'd feel just as bad and be more afraid of being 'discovered'. I ticked over this way for a while, then I went to a womens' networking event at a gorgeous building in London and met someone who opened my eyes.

I was sat there gawping looking at the gold leaf ceiling and said out loud 'what am I doing here?. The lovely woman sat next to me smiled and said, 'I was just thinking the same thing! Someone is going to tap me on the shoulder soon.'

We got chatting and we were from a similar background (northern council estates, solid working class families) but with a twenty five year age gap. She so happened to be an executive board member of my organisation. She explained to me that she'd been dogged with the same feelings for a large part of her career and suggested that I find a mentor and suggested another senior woman in our organisation who did supports others in a voluntary capacity. I did, and now I know how to cope with these feelings.

I still think them, but I know that I'm just as good as the others in the same role, if not better because I give a shit what people think of me and strive to improve.

Can you find a mentor within your organisation? If not, can you ask your manager for an honest appraisal? You might be pleasantly surprised at the feedback you get!

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:28:11

I don't know, scarlettsmummy just that I do make small errors or don't get things right often, you know not being thorough enough in a report, not responding to queries fast enough, sometimes forgetting to attend a meeting, upsetting a secretary by asking her to take on too much and so on. By the law of averages I'm bound to make a big mistake soon.

My job is quite demanding and without giving myself away is one where there is not often much in the way of achieving targets etc but more one where we expend a lot of time, energy and expertise making small improvements and preventing harm. It's rewarding when you feel up to it but when you are not so confident there is not much positive feedback.

PessimisticMissPiggy Sat 15-Oct-11 00:29:20

Doh! I mean 'your feelings'.

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:36:07

PessimisticMissPiggy that's an interesting story, it sounds like your mentor was really helpful. I wouldn't know where to find one, I wonder if I could advertise?

I suppose the crux is that I'm a bit too scared to ask in case my fears are confirmed. Logically surely not all people who have imposter syndrome are actually really competent? I could comfort myself thinking I have imposter syndrome when really I am just incompetent?

trixymalixy Sat 15-Oct-11 00:39:11

I think what helped me sane cat was working for another woman. Up until then everyone else (all men) had just seemed to know what to do without even thinking about it.

We were given a task andshe said something along the lines of " I don't have a bloody clue what to do but we'll work it out". It was a total lightbulb moment for me. I realised it was OK to say "I don't know".

Everybody makes mistakes, everybody. It's how you deal with them that's important.

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:48:46

Trixy I wish I had a manager like yours, she sounds great. I hadn't really thought about it, but I have only briefly had a female manager and she was quite fierce and maybe not representative.

I do think men seem to play down or not admit to mistakes or not knowing what to do. Maybe I should do the same. I haven't had a (useful) appraisal for some time, as my manager isn't from the same profession so his ability to do it justice is a bit limited.

BustersOfDoom Sat 15-Oct-11 00:49:21

Being senior doesn't mean that you never make a mistake or a wrong decision. It means that as well as dealing with all the other stuff that you are able to identify quickly when you have made a mistake and put it right. I think that is one of the most important skills for a leader. <having been led by idiots in the past>

Your post shows that you know the mistakes you've made and what you need to do. Shoulders back, chest out, move forward!

I am always waiting to be caught out as I am now several grades higher - and professionally qualified - than I ever thought I would be when I joined the organisation. I still have a childish desire to go back to my first office, where I was the lowest of the low, to flick the Vs - whilst doing some sort of Ricky Gervais inspired dance - to a few of my former colleagues who weren't very nice and are still there in the same grades they were 20 years ago. <Cough. Tries to rise above it>

The only way is up OP!

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:53:45

Your post made me laugh Busters, I wonder if doing a Ricky Gervais dance would help in some way.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 15-Oct-11 00:55:29

absolutely everyone makes mistakes, you can't be expected to get it right 100% of the time. if you are doing the best you can your team will recognise that. You haven't said anything to suggest that you are unable to do your job, just that you lack confidence.

PessimisticMissPiggy Sat 15-Oct-11 00:58:26

It was one of those 'right timeplace moments'' moments. If I'd had a scooby doo who she was I'd never had said a peep to her! My mentor was great and she went on to set up a Women's Network in my organisation where women can ask for mentors. I now act as a mentor for junior staff (both men and women) with potential to rise through the ranks helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses and helping them to develop action plans to build upon them.

Do you have any senior women managers (perhaps two or three steps higher than you) that are approachable?

I agree with trixy's comments. It does make a difference working for a woman! Women are more open which can be seen as a weakness, but it shouldn't be. It's simply an acknowledgement that we aren't super at everything and aren't bluffers!

Sorry I'm a bit slow and grammar isn't great, I'm BFing my 5mo.

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 00:58:55

Bless you scarlettsmummy2 I hope you're right.

PessimisticMissPiggy Sat 15-Oct-11 01:03:31

Busters, from your language I think we probably work for the same employer ( or they've used the same consultants!)wink

trixymalixy Sat 15-Oct-11 01:03:52

You must have appraisals? What is said at them?

BustersOfDoom Sat 15-Oct-11 01:04:54

Oh I'm glad sanecatlady I think there is much that can be achieved by doing a Ricky Gervais inspired dance. Maybe some of us pissed off people should put a group together like Legs and Co? We could just travel round fucking off pesky management and staff through the medium of dance....... grin

sanecatlady Sat 15-Oct-11 01:06:40

You say we aren't super at everything Pessimistic and yet you manage to make an informative and helpful post whilst BFing a 5mo. That's actually quite impressive in my book!

There is only one woman manager that I could see regularly (the rest are geographically a bit distant IYSWIM) but she is The Big Boss on my patch and just a bit intimidating. I wonder what she'd say if I approached her to be a mentor, that would be interesting!

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 15-Oct-11 01:11:52

I balls stuff up all the time- thankfully as I am the manager my team don't tend to realise as they don't know how to do it either!

PessimisticMissPiggy Sat 15-Oct-11 01:13:53

I reckon The Big Boss would be flattered. Try taking to her PA first. He/she might give you a bit of insight into her?

I'm blushing, I'm getting quite adept at multi-tasking and deep thinking with my DD attached to me. I'm thinking that when I return to work I should put her in the drawer next to me a la Brittas Empire and attach her when I have a problem to solve!

TheBrideofFrankenstein Sat 15-Oct-11 01:16:44

My Dh has imposter syndrome big time. He genuinely thinks that he'll get fired any second, despite being massively well regarded by his boss and his clients and having survived about 10 major redundancy rounds. I wish I knew how to fix it, but then sometimes I think it makes him as good as he is, as he's always trying to improve and is very aware of his weaknesses.

Someone said "The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."

I think there's a lot of truth in it.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now