How Toxic Teammates Trigger Imposter Syndrome [Episode 44]

How do toxic teammates trigger Imposter Syndrome?

This is for you if you figure you've generally got Imposter Syndrome under control, and you're handling it, but there's that one person who has the secret superpower to totally trash your confidence, in nanoseconds, no matter what you've tried.

What You'll Discover Today About How Toxic Teammates Trigger Imposter Syndrome

  • How on earth does a toxic teammate seem to have the power over your Imposter Syndrome buttons?
  • Why my personal definition of Imposter Syndrome is the key to understanding this.
  • The biggest mistake I see people making when 'handling' Imposter Syndrome, and why it leaves you more vulnerable to toxic teammates.
  • The beautiful Native American saying that can set you free from this, instantly.
  • My two-step approach to becoming 'immune' to toxic teammates, without pretending.

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Here's Where We're Talking About This

Have you seen toxic teammates triggering Imposter Syndrome and driving down confidence in your organisation - past or present? What's the answer?

Here's where we're talking about this on LinkedIn and on Instagram. See you there!

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Click here to read the transcript

Note: this is an AI-generated transcript, so please forgive typos.

Hello, and welcome to Episode 44 of The Ditching Imposter Syndrome Podcast, back after a bit of a break. Today, we're talking about how toxic teammates can trigger imposter syndrome. This is for you if you think you've generally got imposter syndrome under control, you're handling it. But if that one person walks in the room, you know they have this secret superpower to totally trash your confidence in nanoseconds no matter what you feel you've tried. So welcome back. It has been a long time. Actually, it's not been that long. It's just where did the summer go? So big apologies for the gap between episodes 43 and 44. It wasn't planned, but here we are, raring to go for a new season of The Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast. Keep sending me your questions. I absolutely love getting them. And the best way to do that is to fill in the scorecard. Get your own Ditching Imposter Syndrome score, personalised action plan. It's a science-backed, quiz-style assessment. And you can find that at ditchingimpostersyndrome.Com/quiz. And in there, there's a chance to send me a question that I can pick to answer in a future episode of The Ditching Imposter Syndrome Podcast.

So one of the things that comes up a lot is toxic teammates. I'm going to be blunt about this, toxic bosses. And here's what happens. If somebody's generally got their act together, they're confident, they're doing what they're doing. Then that one person walks in the room and you feel your heart sink. Your stomach starts to act like you've just eaten so much stuff that you shouldn't. You feel sick. Your breathing changes. You might get clammy, you might go red, you're scared to open your mouth, and you realise this person has got some power and control over how you feel, how confident you are. You might have thought that imposter syndrome was something that you'd hidden behind the scenes, and suddenly it bites you on the backside and comes out to play again. I see this over and over both in my coaching clients. My certification programme coaches talk about having experienced it in their former work or even sometimes in their current work if they're still working in an organisation. And the issue here is that imposter syndrome is context-dependent. You are not an imposter. Imposter syndrome is something that you experience in certain times, taking certain actions.

And we talk about the three pillars of imposter syndrome from my various research studies: culture, environment, habits. And you need a bit of all three for imposter syndrome to come out to play. So you need those habits inside that mean that you have imposter syndrome buttons to press and you're used to those thought patterns that trigger imposter syndrome self-sabotage. But you can be running that and be working or living in a culture and an environment that actually supports you, an imposter syndrome isn't such a big deal. But if you're in a working environment, so that day to day, how do we function? What's going on, how does the business run? And that is not supporting you, then it's more likely that your previously dormant imposter syndrome will come out to play. Similarly, if there is a culture of comparing, of judging, of criticising, of pushing on through the fear, pushing down your emotions having to pretend to be a robot, then that means previously in dormant, imposter syndrome is more likely to come out to play. And part of the environment is actually a toxic team member. I have lost count of how many people I've worked with both as a mentor and a coach and also training them to become mentors and coaches, where they're still actually scarred and some are even traumatised by toxic bosses and toxic teammates.

So what is going on? So when we've got a toxic teammate, then our previously strong confidence goes out the window as soon as they're in the room or in the meeting or in the email CC chain. The warning signs are we start questioning ourselves? Am I the crazy one? I'm not good enough. Things we previously felt okay about, we can actually start beating ourselves up over. It might be something this toxic teammate is saying. It might be they're criticising us. It might be a tone of voice. It might just be a look. Sometimes it just needs to be a look. Sometimes they just need to be in the room and we're shaking in our shoes and desperate that the world can't see it. Now, if you've hung out with me for a while either reading ditching imposter syndrome or on the podcast, you'll know that I define imposter syndrome as being the secret fear of being found out it's not good enough, as a fraud, as faking it, despite outside world evidence that you've got your act together and you're actually doing a good job. Now, there's a second definition that I use for imposter syndrome, and that applies in this situation.

Imposter syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. I'll say that again. Imposter syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. And this is why a toxic teammate compress your imposter syndrome buttons, because their external behaviour, their tone of voice, and the things they're saying or the things they're writing in emails are mirroring the ways we're judging ourselves at three o'clock in the morning. I had an example of this with Kate, who was one of my senior executive coaching clients going through my stepping up to lead programme. She'd had a toxic line manager 10 years before. And yet, even then, every time 10 years on, she heard this person's name, she would break out in a sweat. The problem she had is there was a member of her wider team with the same name that kept triggering her. It wasn't even this person's fault. The trauma from that past toxic line manager was still with her 10 years on, even though she'd been promoted many times over that period. And so she was holding back. She was ready to step up and lead at the next level.

She was ready to start heading towards the C-suite, shaking things up. If that's you, by the way, talk to me about my Rise Like a Rebel® programme, you will absolutely love it. And what we had to do in the Stepping Up to Lead programme was actually help her to go back and clear the brain habits, the body habits, the emotion habits that she had developed as coping strategies to deal with this toxic line manager so that she could feel free to express all of who she really was and to lead with courage, confidence, and passion. So if you've got a toxic team member, I've got some solutions I want to share with you today because not everybody gets to work with me on stepping up to Lead or have me as a coach or work with one of my certified master coaches. And there are things you can do right away. And if you've got the book ditching imposter syndrome, there are things in there that can help too. So the first part of the solution, and we're dealing with toxic teammates triggering imposter syndrome, is you need to clear out the buttons they're pressing.

I'm going to say this, okay? Move away from the coping strategies now. It's the single biggest mistake I see people making with imposter syndrome after the I thought it might go away, is using coping strategies. If I look at social media, if I look at Google searches, one of the most common things that's out there is how to conquer imposter syndrome, how to handle it, how to cope with it, how to succeed despite it. If instead of just doing those sticking plaster, those Band-Aid, those coping strategies, you do the deeper work to actually clear it out once and for all, you set yourself free. You're no longer pretending you're no longer papering over the cracks. When that toxic teammate comes along and tries to press your buttons like, Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. There are no buttons there for them to press, and they can just carry on with their merry little miserable day. So it's move away from the coping strategies and clear out the root causes and the triggers so you become immune to their criticism. You get off the praise, criticism, roller coaster. You can learn this in ditching imposter syndrome.

A lot of this is actually in step two, taming your inner critic, and then steps three and four about the sticky stuff, clearing out the beliefs, the secret triggers, what imposter syndrome might be doing for you. I know that's controversial. It will make sense if you've read the book, and then looking at how to wave goodbye to it, doing that deeper identity-level work, say that you're no longer buffeted, you're no longer reliant on external feedback for your sense of identity and your sense of self-worth, and then someone who's behaving like a toxic teammate simply doesn't affect you. So that is side one. The other aspect to this solution is a beautiful Native American saying, All criticism is born of someone else's pain. All criticism is born of someone else's pain. So very few people actively want to be disliked. I know there are some of them out there in the world, and particularly in the public eye and maybe political sphere. But very few normal people actively want to be disliked. I say what happens when somebody becomes toxic, critical, negative, judgmental, is they're projecting their inner pain? That's what you're on the receiving end because it's easier for them to pass that pain outwards than it is for them to deal with it and resolve what was causing it because they don't know how.

Now, I'm not saying that means you deserve to be somebody else's punchbag. You absolutely do not. But there is a difference between acceptance and acceptable. If somebody is behaving in a way that's toxic, are you just going to accept it? Are you in doormat mode? Or if it's not acceptable, what are you going to do? Now, when you've cleared out your own inner buttons and you decide to do something about that toxic behaviour and say, Hey, this isn't acceptable, we need to talk about this, you can do that for a place of grounded confidence and love rather than anger, fear, and pain. And that discussion will then go very differently. But the key here with all criticism is born of someone else's pain, is that this toxic behaviour isn't actually about you. It's not personal. Yes, they might be looking at you. Yes, they might be talking to you. Yes, they might be saying your name, but it's not about you. What they're demonstrating to the world is actually their own inner critic. Happy people do not rip others to shreds. Happy people do not intentionally go around causing pain. I am not saying this to justify the toxic behaviour because it's not acceptable and it does dealing with...

And part of the culture and environment pillars on that three pillars model that we've created is actually you need a leadership team that has zero tolerance for toxicity. The key is to realise if it's not about you, it's in about them. If you don't take it personally, you can choose whether or not to take action on it not being acceptable, or you can just move on because we're not always there ready to be the crusaders going and fighting. Sometimes it's enough just to say, Do you know what? I'm not dancing that dance. They can criticise, they can judge. Oh, my goodness, what must it be like living in their heads, living in their world that they think this is the way they need to behave at work or in the organisation that you're volunteering with, however it is you know them. The key is it's not about you. So in my imposter syndrome boot camp programme, you can find a link to that in the show notes, we actually deal with this detail. Not only do you clear out the triggers, the buttons that other people compress so that you're truly free from them. No more coping strategies.

It's just amazing. I also teach you techniques like my disco ball to give you that immunity to other people's toxicity, even while you're going through this process. It's like a mini superpower. We talk about Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication. So if you do want to raise this, you do it in a way that means you're much more likely to be heard without creating more stress, tension, and toxicity. And we work in more detail on the difference between acceptance and acceptable and how to create change, whatever the changes you want to create in the world from that place of grounded confidence rather than rage, anger, and fear. Then people who are on my stepping up to lead programme or who are on my imposter syndrome master coach programme, we go into detail there on how to have difficult conversations without losing sleep, without getting stressed about it, and being able to let go of the need for the other person to change without being their doormat. That is how toxic teammates can trigger imposter syndrome. It's absolutely vital that you move beyond the bridge of coping strategies approach, which I've taught in previous episodes, where you are just plastering over the cracks and hoping imposter syndrome will go away and hoping you can push on through the fear and succeed despite it, because the more wobbly you're feeling inside, the easier it is for that toxic teammate to trick out your imposter syndrome, thoughts, emotions, and self-sabotage.

Clear out, at that root cause level, my Natural Resilience Method® does that for you. You just have to go through the steps. Remember, all criticism is born of someone else's pain. It's not about you, it's not personal. It doesn't mean it's acceptable. But you can just let it go and get on with shining the light that's inside you that's here to make an even bigger difference in the world. I'd love to hear from you. On the show notes, there'll be links to where we're discussing this over on LinkedIn and on Instagram. I don't want names, but do you have a toxic teammate? And how might applying that two-step strategy help you to set yourself free from the emotional roller coaster of coping with their criticism so you can feel free to be who you are and lead with courage, confidence, and passion?

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