• imposter

Imposter Syndrome Affecting 85% of UK Adults

A recent study by learning & development training provider, The Hub Events, has revealed that the UK is experiencing an epidemic of self-doubt.

85% of UK adults admitted to feeling inadequate or incompetent at work, and almost 70% don’t feel they deserve their current success.

Of these, 1 in 4 said that they experience these feelings often or all the time.

These findings are particularly staggering as the responses came from 1,000 UK adults who are currently employed and have at least 3 years’ experience in their field of work.

‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a psychological pattern which causes chronic self-doubt and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, often despite repeated success and accomplishments.

Of those surveyed, only 25% were aware of ‘Imposter Syndrome’, however most respondents said they had experienced its effects.

Almost half of UK workers admitted to experiencing the kinds of intrusive thoughts that come with ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Of those experiencing intrusive thoughts;
• 1 in 4 (25%) believe it is only due to luck/chance that they have achieved success
• Almost 1 in 5 (39%) think that one day their boss or colleagues will realise they are underqualified (despite experience/qualifications)
• 15% think they only got a job or promotion because the workplace was ‘short on candidates’
• 11% don’t think they deserve the praise or compliments that they receive about their success at work

How do we stop the crisis of self-doubt?
Good mental health is crucial to a happy and successful career and personal life, and sufferers of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ may be at increased risk of anxiety – so what can employers do to eliminate it?
• 3 in 5 (60%) respondents want to see more regular positive & helpful feedback on staff performance
• 44% want employers to create a more open environment where staff are encouraged to talk about the challenges they face
• 43% believe providing adequate coaching & mentors for staff will help
• 2 in 5 (41%) want to ensure management staff are trained to assist with their employees’ anxieties and self-doubt
• 35% think employers should provide access to mental health services

What does this mean for PAs and EAs ?

PAs have a double exposure to the risks of Impostor Syndrome. First, for yourself. It’s perfectly natural to wonder if you’re “good enough” from time to time and have doubts about your ability. But, PAs are naturally very conscientious people, and this can easily tip over into anxiety about not being perfect. Remember that there’s a lot of ground between good enough and completely perfect, and that while you’re in that ground you’re doing fine.

Secondly, with the phenomenon being so wide spread, it’s very likely that the executive you support will experience Impostor Syndrome at some point.

The best way to deal with the challenges this poses is to work on your resilience, or your ability to put things in perspective and bounce back after setbacks. The Hub Events offers an extremely effective and practical one day course for people who need to develop resilience at work.


Christine Macdonald, Director of The Hub Events, said;

‘Despite having relevant skills, experience and qualifications, some people still feel overwhelmed by the feeling that they will one day be exposed as a ‘fraud’, and the burden of this worry can end up holding very talented people back.

Simply talking about the fact that Imposter Syndrome exists, and that it’s a lot more common than we think, could be a huge relief to people who are gripped by these self-doubts.

Organisations can help a lot by encouraging openness, opportunities to develop and realistic expectations. They can also help by ensuring their management staff are all fully trained to mentor and assist employees and understand the importance of positive feedback.’


Christine Macdonald is one of the founding directors of The Hub Events, a provider of fresh, practical and effective management training and leadership development. She helped found The Hub Events after a 20 year career in Learning and Development and conference production. She’s a passionate learner and incredible curious about what makes people happy and productive at work. LinkedIn