“This is your office, Mr Parkinson. Can I bring you anything? Tea or coffee?”
She walked out of the room, leaving me to check out my reflection in the giant shiny desk the size of a ping pong table. I tentatively perched myself on the edge of the big black leather chair with its high back.
“What am I doing here? Am I a fraud? How long before everyone realises?”
…………… cast forward 6 months. It’s Monday morning. I step in to that same office at 8.00am in the morning. I cast a look around. The same desk. The same chair behind it. Some new chairs in front of it (I’m tall enough as it is, without having a higher chair that towers over the visitor chairs! A few pieces of my own possessions on the desk, but in almost all respects, still the same room. In shock, I realise that whilst I may have initiated many changes outside this room in those 6 months, I’ve changed hardly anything in it. “I know why. It’s not really mine. I’m really not sure i belong here. I’m just waiting for everyone to realise and then I’ll probably be on my way!”
This was a real scenario and I would say, at some time or other, I’ve probably felt it in every job or role I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve had it in unpaid roles as well when I’ve been given leadership responsibilities. It’s something I never really talked about with anyone. In fact, the stronger I felt it the less inclined I was to talk about it.
So, what a weight off to discover that I was far from alone. What I’ve experienced on all those occasions was ‘Imposter Syndrome’;
I’m guessing there are a few people out there who are going to breath a bit easier after reading this article. However, while I’m not going to name them, I can also think of a few people I’ve known in leadership roles who will scoff and laugh at this, mystified by the fuss and ridiculing any idea that they might ever benefit from a little humility about their own talents, worthiness and right to hold the role and responsibilities they have!
(I’ve always known there was a reason to find them the most dangerous of people!)
Personally, one of the ways this manifests is that if you were to ask me to do a self-analysis and produce a list of things I don’t know but should, or skills that i ought to have at a higher level – I could give you a list as long as your arm in no time. However, if you asked me to list honestly all those things where I am at 100% in skills or knowledge, just can’t go any further – it would be a very short list. BUT, I wouldn’t give you that list, would I?
And, of course, this is where most employee appraisal systems in organisations are such a farce, as are many of the questions people are asked in interviews. Because, the reality is we all know we’re in a game on those occasions and the secret is to answer the questions in accordance with the game – not honestly! Heaven forbid. How long would you last when asked, “What are your strengths for this job?” if you answered, “Well, I’m not really there on anything yet, but i’m working really hard at it.”
We’re a long way from open, transparent, honest workplaces!