Let’s talk about being fake in the workplace…
Why a “Fake it till you make it” mindset will boomerang / backfire "Fake it till you make it” mindset in the workplace – why it doesn't work
Stepping up doesn’t mean “fake it”
By Lizette Volkwyn, Master Coach, published author, and Human Lie Detector
Have you ever been in a situation, whether at work, or in your personal life and you
softly whispered to your self “Fake it till you make it, and everything will be fine”? Let
me tell you why you shouldn’t and why it can easily backfire.
"Fake it till you make it"; (or "Fake it until you make it") is an English saying that suggests that by
imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities
in their real-life and achieve the results they seek.
In the early days of sales training, the “fake it till you make it” was promoted as the first step
towards success. It is explained as the instant feeling of confidence albeit the opposite being true,
but there is a fine line between pretending and just being outright deceitful.
Does this sound familiar? You arrive at a client and have the butterfly feeling. Then, you have the
overwhelming feeling of ‘am I good enough, can I impress this client, shall I wing it, why am I even
doing this’? It is in these moments that you would probably hear all these voices of “Fake it till you
make it”, “just pretend you are the best”, “just tell yourself you are what they need”, “just imagine
they are all naked”. The truth be told -- these are JUST PHRASES, nothing more.
To really step up, and make a true impact is to invest in yourself. Start knowing who you are,
embrace your uniqueness and then and only then, confidence and authority will be felt.
In a workplace environment, to be “fake” is a dangerous game that can be detrimental to your
The competition is fierce
We live in an extremely competitive world and the temptation to fake successes, capability, and
confidence is rife. This, however, does not promote that you have to embrace an imposter
syndrome to be seen.
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who have had the
approach of pretending to try to prove their worth to others were more likely to end up showcasing
their shortcomings rather than living up to their pretense exhibitions. MBA students who wore
Rolex watches to increase their self-worth and status ended up feeling like bigger failures.
Ladders, a career site, recently did a study on employee workplace happiness. Here were some
Employees who fake happiness admit being unproductive for over 15 percent of an 8- hour workday.
Faking happiness at work is common, with 81% of unhappy employees doing so.
4 in 5 managers said they could tell when employees fake being happy, and 52% of them wish the employee would talk to them about why they're unhappy.
Women were also more likely to fake happiness at work. 86% of female employees said they faked a smile at work, compared to 77% of the unhappy men.
As a truth and creditability expert (human lie detector) and master coach who has partnered with
several high-performance individuals, I have witnessed that even though we tell ourselves to
pretend, our subconscious mind will contradict our actions with non-verbal reactions and reveal
If we only measure the result based on our subconscious mind, we will understand that the term
‘fake it till you make it’, is a temporary fix with the risk of a snowball to a feeling of incompetency,
self-doubt, and a career risk.
In an era where job opportunities are limited and the need to over-deliver is part of the job
description, it is understandable that we would do anything to step up and get the job or keep your
The caveat – don’t fake it.
Start with the why
Start asking yourself what exactly is it you want to fake? Why do you need to fake it and lastly is it
worth the risk?
John Grinder and Richard Bandler (founders of NLP – a pseudoscientific approach to
communication) created techniques through the NLP methodologies to overcome negative
thoughts, self-sabotage mindsets, and any other trauma-related misconceptions and perceptions
to impress others.
Faking confidence, capability, or authority in the workplace is bound to be exposed when you
least expect it or worse when you cannot afford it.
Yes, we must embrace ambition, stretch our capability, and be open to learning as much as
possible to be the very best of who we can be, but within the frame of reality, integrity and
The definition of fake is clear, “a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham”. Do you see yourself
as a fraudulent individual? Are you putting yourself out there to be seen as a sham? I think not.
Self-acceptance is the key to embrace who you truly are. Whether you find yourself being an
introvert, ambivert or extrovert, people and companies must see you for who you truly are.
So, how do we overcome the feeling to overcompensate for perceived inadequacies, self-doubt,
and lack of confidence?
All of the above are just symptoms of past programming that we are desperately trying to hide
and the inherent need to be accepted. The true issue is that we do not know who we truly are,
don’t have a solid understanding of our core values, and have no idea what we really want out of
Step away fakeness; hello confidence
Once we have taken time out to explore and venture on the journey of self-discovery we will
recognize that fakeness holds no place in our world. Our need to fake it disappears and more so
we will embrace our uniqueness and step up to the plate within our means. We will understand
our ambition, be able to communicate it in such a way, that our colleagues and superiors
understand our role and vision without putting ourselves in situations of negative exposure or
worse, the firing line.
Between self-exploration, core values and clear vision we eliminate ‘fake it till we make it’ and
replace it with “grow it as we sow it...until we reap success”.
The moment you believe in yourself and not reliant on someone else to validate who you should
be, pure confidence will step in.
To confidently step up in your role and your career, you need to let go of this idealism to be
someone you are not, and you will inspire another colleague along the way. Let’s imagine, for a
moment, what a more real workplace will be where individuals feel safe to be themselves and
showcase who they truly are, giving their best, without insecurities, imposter syndrome or fear of
taking the lead.
When we change our approach to vulnerability, authenticity and confidence, fakeness will
disappear and the risk of false exposure will be eliminated.