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Academy Xi Blog

Combatting Digital Imposter Syndrome

By Academy Xi

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“Who can I ask about this system?”

“Everyone seems to know how to use this program except me.”

“I am going to need help – but am embarrassed to ask.”

Sound familiar? The struggle of Digital Imposter Syndrome is real. We’ve all felt it at some point in our personal or professional lives.

Researchers say that up to 70% of people suffer from some form of Imposter Syndrome at one point or another. The fact that none of us are immune to it doesn’t make it any less destructive to our confidence.

The Digital version relates to the way people feel about themselves when interacting with programs, platforms, systems, data, emerging tech etc. One study conducted by Chapman University found that tech-related fears were the second most common fear category amongst adults. 

How often have you encountered a new piece of technology in the workplace and held back from asking the necessary questions to truly understand how it works? You held your tongue. Without this knowledge you won’t know how to leverage its potential. Or your own. Think of that productivity lag. This is how a seemingly innocuous mindset can collectively hold up business growth.

So what can businesses do?

Start by listening.

The starting point for addressing fear is to understand it. Listen to your people. What are you hearing to be the major barriers for them? What are the big pain points? How exactly are they struggling to interact with specific tech? Where do they feel that they fit into the broader digital ecosystem? To quote Zendesk, “Digital transformation can be a rough employee experience”, but it doesn’t have to be when you know what issues are of greatest concern.” 

Take your people on the journey. 

In one of our recent blogs, we discuss that when rolling out digital transformation projects, it is critical to bring your people along for the ride. It all starts with demystification. Bring the technology that underpins your organisation out into the light. To capture the full potential of any single piece of digital technology, your people need to:

  • a) Know how to use it
  • b) Know who to turn to when they have questions and
  • c) Understand where it fits into the broader organisational digital ecosystem

Mx Taîss Quartápa, a senior manager at Accenture, says ‘When I was managing the graduates at a previous workplace, I saw various versions of this [digital imposter syndrome]. The reactions I got really depended on the individual but would range from “No, I can’t do that, I haven’t been trained on that” to “I have only learnt wireframing on x software, not on y software” to “I’m just faking it – I google things and copy what to do – I’m sure that won’t always work”.

Pictured: Taîss Quartápa

Provide the right training at the right time.

All organisational digital transformation is progressive. As a company, you need to crawl before you walk and walk before you run (digitally speaking). This same concept trickles down into the way you support your people. It is about giving everyone the right education at the right time. There is no use rolling out a training program for a new system if they don’t understand where it fits, how it impacts them or why the company has chosen to go in this direction in the first place.

Quartápa says that it is a matter of reframing. ‘If we reframe imposter syndrome to imposter experience perhaps we would evaluate it with a more objective lense.’ They believe self-doubt is normal, especially when venturing into the unknown and challenging territory — something they believe we continue to do daily as part of the very definition of our roles.

Alleviate anxiety through cultural change. 

Businesses need their people to be courageous. The message needs to be: “Let’s prioritise taking the action we need to achieve our goals over looking foolish and feeling fearful”. This is obviously a mindset shift in a working environment where ‘not knowing’ is often seen as weakness. 

In their teams, Quartápa says that “a willingness to ask for help is a key attribute to their success. I expect them to be curious, to keep trying new things and that I know that can be really hard, especially when you’re new and trying to demonstrate competence early. I know everyone says “there are no stupid questions” but there actually is such thing as a so-called stupid question. It’s the question that you could have found the answer to on your own. So, read books, ask peers or google it – there’s no wrong way to admit that you do not know everything, and that you are willing to learn more.”

Our opinion? We believe that the best possible place to start with this change is at the top. Consider how powerful it would be for your Executive Team to declare “We aren’t ‘digital natives’ and could use some help to adapt to these new ways of working.” Talk about courage.

If ever there was a time to support people struggling with Digital Imposter Syndrome it is in the wake of COVID-19. We all now have a much greater reliance on technology. In a time where we are expected to use digital skills intensely across various parts of our jobs, organisations need to be aware of the additional strain this can place on their people.

Want to give your teams a boost in digital confidence?

We have training solutions for every stage of the digital journey. From Intro Courses (1 day) to larger digital transformation programs, we can help. Discuss your digital training needs with us.