‘’In a research study that I conducted recently, 90% of people who took the survey were experiencing impostor syndrome or had experienced it in the past.’’ – Aoife O’Brien.
Welcome back to Happier at Work. To continue the exploration of unhappiness at work, this week, Aoife unpacks a popular topic that arose on LinkedIn: getting your voice heard at work.
Speaking up at work can be a challenge for many. To help shed some light, Aoife will discuss two contributing pillars to tackling this obstacle: psychological safety and imposter syndrome. Throughout the episode, Aoife discusses the benefits of working in a psychologically safe environment, building trust and overcoming fear at work, and shares valuable tips on overcoming imposter syndrome and self-limiting beliefs. Key points throughout include:
– The importance of creating an environment of psychological safety in the workplace.
– Managing change in the workplace.
– Learning from setbacks: it’s okay to make mistakes at work.
– Why leaders should seek and welcome feedback.
– How to ensure your employees feel heard.
– How leaders can encourage vulnerability in the workplace.
– An introduction to the ‘ABC’ method for overcoming imposter syndrome.
– Aoife’s guide to speaking up with confidence at work.
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Listen back to previous Happier at Work episodes covering the topics of psychological safety and imposter syndrome:
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Aoife O’Brien 00:00
Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking purpose-led people first organisations to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife@happieratwork.ie. That’s A O I F E at happieratwork.ie.
You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is the podcast for leaders who put people first, the podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the Happier at Work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at happieratwork.ie.
Hello, and welcome back to another solo episode of the Happier at Work Podcast. I’m so delighted that you have joined me today. And again, today’s topic continues on with this theme of addressing unhappiness at work and one of the issues that people shared on LinkedIn was that they are afraid to speak up at work. And I thought this is an interesting topic because it kind of, from my perspective, it covers a couple of different things. So the first one being psychological safety, and that managers haven’t created an environment where people feel like it’s okay to speak up, they haven’t addressed the issue where they can be challenged, that people are free to open and, you know, share their ideas, and speak up during meetings. And on the other side, it’s to do with impostor syndrome. So it’s more at the individual level where the individual feels like they may be found out as a total fraud, if they open their mouth, if they share their ideas, that they will somehow expose themselves as being incompetent, that they don’t deserve the role and therefore they keep their mouth shut. And they don’t want to speak up because of that. So in this episode, I’m going to address these two aspects of it slightly differently. And also bear in mind that I have done podcast episodes on both of these topics before. So if you want to go back and listen to those fuller, more robust episodes, you are very welcome to do that to get kind of a rounder picture of what’s going on here. But for the purposes of this solo episode, it’s really about addressing some of those issues at a top line level in relation to psychological safety, on the one hand, and on the other hand, impostor syndrome.
So first things first, aside from being a contributing factor of unhappiness at work what more is there to do with a being afraid to speak up? Or why is it important to create an environment of psychological safety? For me, it’s, and the research shows this as well. So it’s not just me kind of spouting on, it’s a dry, it’s a key driver of trust in an organisation. So being able to speak up against whatever is happening in the organisation is a key way of building trust. It also is a great way to drive innovation and creativity. So if people are free to make mistakes, to learn from those mistakes, then their innovation and creativity gets unleashed to a degree because they’re free to try new things without fear of reprimand for making mistakes. And this, in turn leads to more innovative ideas, more creativity in the organisation, and exposed to in addressing psychological safety know that if you’re in an environment where things are not psychologically safe, at the moment, it is going to take a while to change. And from a leaders perspective, the employees may become a little bit suspicious if things suddenly change overnight. So it is about creating that trust over time. So it’s not it’s not an overnight fix, it is something that’s going to take time. And it is you know, it’s about recognising the positive behaviors to reinforce those positive behaviors as well. But really what creating this type of environment looks like is knowing that it’s okay to make mistakes, first of all, so, if you make an error in something, if you send the wrong thing to a client, that it’s okay and you take that as a learning opportunity. I always like to think that there’s there’s no such thing as making mistakes or failure. And I recently heard this idea of it being a setback. So it’s more about I’ve had this setback at work and what can I learn from it? So taking that opportunity to learn, but also from a leaders perspective welcoming feedback. So if people ever have something to share, that you’re really open and receptive to that, they you actively go out and ask people for that feedback on what’s going on what they think, really listen to the feedback that they provide. But in addition to that, taking action on the feedback, so, you know, one of the common things in organisations to do is to send out surveys, but you’re asking things that don’t necessarily correspond with action points that you can take, and therefore you don’t act on the decisions that have been made, or at least the voices that have been shared. And that reinforces this negative culture of when you’ve, you’ve asked us what we wanted, we told you what we wanted, and you haven’t listened, you haven’t taken any action as a result of telling you what it is that we want. So being open to questioning what is being done. And I don’t mean this in in kind of a rude way. But it’s questioning whether or not this is the right course of action, whether or not these are the right steps to take and being open to that and publicly demonstrating that you’re open to feedback. And that you’re opening to that you’re open to things being questioned in the organisation that it’s not going to be reprimanded in any way that it’s you’re not going to get negative feedback, because you’ve provided or they you’ve questioned things, and the importance of specific things, I think is really, really important to, to do that. And another thing within the context of meetings, for example, and when people feel afraid to speak up during a team meeting, for example, is to invite specific voices to that meeting. So if you’ve noticed that it’s been dominated by one person who’s quite extroverted, there’s another person or another couple of people who haven’t had the opportunity to share their own thoughts, to share what it is that’s going on in their mind, then deliberately inviting them to the conversation to ask them to contribute, and demonstrating that in front of the team of people showing that this is what we welcome here, we want people to share what’s going on for them the impacts that something might have, and to share what it means to them. And this is a way of making sure that everyone’s voices is being heard, not just those who enjoy speaking up are those who feel comfortable speaking up. But it gives the opportunity then to more people to have their voices heard, especially if their voices are dissenting or if they’re different to the voices that are commonly heard as well. And so inviting that to happen, I think is really important. But the key for me really is telling people that it’s okay to fail that it’s okay to make mistakes. And that it’s you know, and ways that leaders can do that is sharing their own mistakes, showing a level of vulnerability, showing a level of you know, that they were in that position one time before. And really, really sharing that on the human to human level, I think is really important for building trust. Like I said, at the start, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. But it is something that will take time and you just need to keep at it and not to give up consistency is key here is not about trying out some new methods in work and deciding that they don’t actually work. But it’s giving it a go and really committing to changing the culture in the organisation. So that people want to speak up so that people feel safe to speak up and against whatever is happening at the time.
Bringing me on to then in this idea of imposter syndrome. And, you know, if it’s the individual who feels like they can’t speak up, for reasons that I’ve outlined earlier like that they feel like they’re gonna get caught out as a fraud. This is specifically in relation to impostor syndrome. And I suppose that the first thing to say about that is, if you feel that way, you’re very much not alone. The research shows that 70% of people at some point in their career is going to feel exactly that way, that they’re a fraud, and that they’re going to get caught out. And at any time, they’re going to get a tap on the shoulder. And someone’s going to say, well, you know, we’ve realised we’ve made a huge mistake, and actually you’re not the right person for the job at all. So it is very, very common. And in a research study that I conducted recently, myself 90% of people who took the survey were experiencing impostor syndrome, or had experienced it in the past. So it was kind of an even split, so around 45 for those currently experiencing it, versus 45 that had experienced it in the past, but not currently. What I’m saying I suppose so first point around that is that people are often too worried about what they’re saying themselves on what they’re speaking up about in the meeting, to be overly concerned about what it is that you’re saying or how you come across. And so that’s kind of the first point around that the people are mostly concerned about themselves and how they’re coming across to be too worried about how you’re coming across in a meeting if you speak up. Now, for more details on the methodology that I use, you can listen to the fuller episode on impostor syndrome. I talk about the ABC method, which A is we need to acknowledge. So if you take the first step towards the addressing this issue, it’s acknowledging that it’s imposter syndrome that’s getting in your way, it’s not anything else, it’s just trying this voice in your head trying to convince you that you’re not good enough that you don’t deserve to be there that you don’t deserve your accomplishments that you’re gonna get caught out. It’s about acknowledging, first of all that that is what’s going on. The second point, then, is be fair belief. And so if you need to back up what it is that you’re going to say, maybe you need to do some additional research that you need to bring some findings into the meeting, the need to, you know, build up that belief in what you are saying is really the case. So that you can speak up about something in particular at work, and then see then is about taking courageous action. And so for this, this can look something like a small stakes type of decision that needs to be made that you need to speak up on, it can be maybe an impromptu sharing about what’s going on for you or a little bit about your own work background, something that has small stakes, it’s not going to have a huge impact necessarily. So it’s about starting small. And we don’t gain confidence by planning and researching, we gain confidence by taking action. And when you take action, and you have success, that builds your confidence to take more action and bigger action the next time. So in order to, to properly overcome this and address it, you need to start taking action, no matter how small, you need to start taking action and building up your confidence by taking action, not by all the planning and not by staying in your head and worrying about what’s going on.
I think another point to make before I wrap things up is and this is going to address both of these issues is to speak to your manager alone before the meeting. So if there’s something in particular that you want to speak up about, if you want to share something with the team, for example, that you let someone know in advance that you want to share this and and you could get their buy in, you could get their feedback on what it is that you’re going to share, you can simply let them know that you want to speak up in the meeting so that when it comes to inviting people to speak about a particular topic that they can invite you by name, to share what it is, whatever is going on for you. And so I think taking their time in advance to get reassurance about what you’re going to speak on, or what you’re going to speak up about can feel, you know, like a bit of a relief so that it gives you that confidence to speak up. But it also shows that you’re in that psychologically safe environment as well. I’d love to know if you have any thoughts on that. Have you ever been in a work situation where you felt afraid to speak up about something and I can certainly remember times where I won’t say I necessarily felt afraid to speak up. But I know certainly if I did speak up, it was challenged by the louder voices in that room and, and almost I don’t want to say bullied, but almost, that we had to go along with that loudest voice or the person who is putting their point across most forcefully. But that’s you know, that’s kind of a slightly different challenge. But I would love to know if you have had this experience of being afraid to speak up at work, have you addressed it? What have you done to either create an environment where people are, feel a bit more empowered to speak up at work or or whether you have done that for yourself whether you’ve overcome impostor syndrome or fear of speaking up in team meeting.
Do get involved in the conversation, you can connect with me through my website, happieratwork.ie Instagram, happieratwork.ie and LinkedIn Aoife O’ Brien and I would absolutely love to continue this conversation with you, and addressing these issues of unhappiness at work so that we can create happier working environments for everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in today and I do look forward to continuing the conversation with you.
That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts – head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie