Back to work: Tips for handling change & imposter syndrome

Many of us will be re-entering the workplace in the next weeks and months – and we may be challenged by a need to change. 

Some of us may be returning to our previous workplace or employer – but we may find that we are required to adjust to new structures, processes, practices or to new consumer demands. Others may be starting over in a new role or with a new employer. 

We may feel angry that our workplace has changed or that we have been forced to take up new employment. However, there wouldn’t be a future in working in a role that is no longer required or within a company that can no longer compete.  Finding ways to accept and embrace the challenge… and to focus on how we can successfully make this transition… can help us both in terms of our performance and our wellbeing.

Embarking on a new role or starting a new job can be an anxious time. To feel some anxiety about starting a new job is completely normal. In fact, science tells us that people are ‘hard-wired’ to feel anxious in pretty much any new situation. With the added pressure of wanting to make a good first impression with your new boss, or to excel in your job right off the bat, it’s no surprise that making the career move, by choice or by necessity, can be a very anxious time.

Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist says, “For a lot of people, starting a new job taps into old fears — like your first day of school. There’s also what we call anticipatory anxiety.” So, to be clear, in such situations, some nervousness or anxiety is to be expected and is completely normal.  Even those co-workers who don’t appear to be nervous are just better at hiding it!   Remind yourself that some anxiety is not only normal, but helpful. Some level of anxiety helps to keep us focused and to keep us engaged.  Tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety because you care about what you’re doing.

I want to introduce three topics: Change, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Compassion.


When we are asked to make a change we may encounter a series of emotions: denial (that the change has to happen), anger (that change is being imposed up on us), grief (for the loss of a familiar workplace or colleagues), through to acceptance and then on to positively embrace the change.  

Yet change can be disconcerting for us as it may wash away the work and processes that staff have previously strived to implement or to master. It may feel as if the work we have done before, or, our previous accomplishments are no longer of value.

Without change, organisations would be unable to adapt to compete or even to survive.  There would be no future working in an organisation clinging to the past.  So, change is inevitable at work – and in our lives.

I previously posted about the benefit of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in any change management programme.  Here:

Research from ‘change management initiatives’ demonstrates that training in mindfulness makes employees:

  • More open to new ideas (less resistant, less anxious, less denial)
  • Better able to deal with stress and challenges
  • More self-confident with greater self-esteem – to embrace change

A study of employees given M-BCT training prior to a major change project (processes, systems and jobs) showed:

  • 83% said meditation helped them through a significant change
  • Those who rated their resilience as ‘High’ increased from 10% to 70%
  • Those who rated their ability to handle stress as ‘High’ went from 11% to 66%
  • Emotional awareness (11% to 89%) positivity (16% to 84%) feeling in control (28 to 72%)
  • MBCT Prevents loss in trust and increase in job satisfaction

The Rezl Toolbox includes a tutorial and a meditation on the subject of dealing with change – try it!

Imposter Syndrome

When starting a new job, it can appear that everyone else knows so much, or, that you have so much to learn, and you may wonder if you will be able to make the grade.

Impostor Syndrome is where a you start to doubt that you are good enough, and so you may fear being exposed as a fraud.  A voice inside your head tells you that you are not as good as your colleagues, or, that you do not have the skills, ability or experience to be doing your job.  You start to believe that you have no right to be doing what you are doing, that you do not deserve success and that sooner or later you will be exposed… as a fraud… as an impostor.

I previously wrote about Imposer Syndrome here.

Yet a mindfulness-based approach is very effective in reducing these feelings.   Tell yourself that you are gaining skills, experience and knowledge, and that there is no reason why you cannot be as effective as your colleagues… and probably better.  It is just a case of effort and practice so that you will learn how to be a highly effective member of the team.  Accept that you cannot be expected to know everything and that you will make errors sometimes…  but that you will learn from these experiences so that you  will not repeat such errors – everybody learns and develops in this way.

You are “good enough” –  so set aside any emotional reactions that may chip away at your confidence and cause you to develop impostor syndrome. 


Self-Compassion is our ability to show ourselves understanding and compassion when we encounter a set-back or when we endure a difficult situation.  If a friend was experiencing a loss, or suffering, we would show them empathy, compassion and support – so why not show ourselves the same? 

If we are too hard on ourselves then we may start to imagine that we are not good enough and that we are doomed to fail – this may cause low mood or even anxiety about our future.  So, it is good to take time out to acknowledge our successes (even small ones), and we should also show ourselves self-compassion and encouragement where things have not gone as we had hoped.

The Rezl Foundation Programme includes a tutorial and meditation on the topic of self-compassion.

Here are some thoughts to help you deal with your feelings when starting a new job or role:

Get a note book.  There will be a lot to take on board – new processes, how to do things, where things can be found so write it all down: General instructions, system login information, passcodes, or a to-do-list… even the names of key colleagues or contacts. It’s always best to have a notepad and a pen to hand to write all this stuff down as and when you hear it. You’ll be bombarded with a lot of information on your first day alone, and it’ll be impossible to fit it all in your head in amongst the excitement and nerves.

When you have ten minutes – review your notes and write down any supplementary questions you may have or things for clarification. These can be quickly answered by consulting with co-workers or by asking your line manager.  Taking notes presents a professional and organised approach to your work.

And be sure to ask where any processes or rules are documented and be sure to follow up by reading though them.  Again, note down any questions or issues for clarification.

Accept that you won’t know everything – but will not be expected to do so.  All you need to do for now is keep up a good level of confidence, while avoiding coming across as arrogant, and, most importantly, display a real willingness to learn.

Your boss expects you to be unsure of things at this stage, so don’t be afraid to ask questions – and try not to panic too much if you make a mistake. Errors are all part of the learning process, and your employer should generally be understanding of any mistakes you might make early on. Just make sure that you take accountability for your actions. You’re far better off admitting to anything that goes wrong, and trying to find a resolution than trying to hide it. It could be easier to fix than you think!

Accept that you are the newbie. Try not to say anything that you would not want repeated. Try to be on your best behaviour, be kind and don’t be mean spirited about others.

Avoid office politics. If someone explains some kind of ongoing arguments or warns you of some problem then you can just say “thanks for the heads-up” without giving an opinion.  If you are put on the spot you can say “I haven’t really thought about it yet”.  If you do see something that is worrying then ask to talk to you manager about it.  Your priority is to settle in… not to join a battle.

Rather than worry – just focus on the job.  Go over the job description for your new role, and remind yourself of your responsibilities. That way you’ll be able to go in with a real sense of purpose, not to mention know what to expect as the weeks progress.

Think about what made you want the job, and what helped you land it in the first place. Remember that the employer obviously has faith in your abilities and believes you’ll be a great fit for the role – so you can believe it too!

Don’t be too big for your boots.  Try not to make promises you might not be able to keep in an attempt to impress; or to criticise or to point out things that you think may need to change.  Right now, you need help to learn the ropes from your co-workers. 

Control your anxiety. If you are feeling anxious then try some slow, deep breathing on your way to work, take frequent bathroom breaks as appropriate, and make sure your breathing is slow and steady by focusing on your breathing. Use the tools you have within your Rezl App.

Some anxiety is not only normal, but helpful as it keeps us focused and it keeps us engaged. Tell yourself that some of your anxiety is being driven because you care about what you’re doing.

Take time to make friends.   Ask your colleagues about themselves and their situations.  If necessary, note down the names of their kids and their ages.  Find and share things that you have in common – places, music, sports, films, pets even family given names – anything.  Research shows that people feel better deposed to others with whom they have things in common.  Even small things! And Get to know the people around you. Find someone to go to lunch with. Accept invitations to socialise.

Starting a new role or a new job is a challenging time. Remember, everyone was new once.  It’s not a race – take your time and you will settle in just fine.

Take care of yourself.