The Workplace Can Be Scary


Think you need to head to a haunted house to get spooked this Halloween? Think again — some workers report that you don’t even have to leave work to get your fill of fright.

According to CareerBuilder’s Halloween survey conducted among more than 4,000 workers, nearly one-in-five workers describe their workplace as scary.

Some workers think their workplace is scary because their bosses bear a strong resemblance to famous Halloween characters. When asked which popular characters best reflect their boss’s behavior, workers said the following:

Glinda the Good Witch, liked and respected by all (20%)

The Wolf Man, is fine one minute, howling the next (11%)

The Invisible Man, never around (10%)

Casper the Friendly Ghost, eager to help, but often misunderstood (9%)

Dracula, constantly sucking the life right out of you (6%)

Wicked Witch of the West, always acting conniving and sending out minions to do his/her dirty work (5%)

The Mummy, slow-moving and has an ancient thought process (4%)

Grim Reaper, constantly delivers bad news and inspires fear among workers (3%)

Frankenstein, green with envy (1%)

In addition to spooky bosses, when asked what the scariest part of their job was, workers reported the following fear-inducing activities: workload, performance reviews, tight deadlines, hours worked, their boss or supervisor, and sitting through meetings.

Even if you’re not dressing up at work this Halloween, you may still feel like you’re wearing a mask.

“Many successful people suffer from impostor syndrome” says Joyce Roché, author of The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success, published this year by Berrett-Koehler (

Joyce defines imposter syndrome as “the feeling that you’re a fraud and that you’ll be ‘found out’ if you don’t work longer and harder than everyone else.”

“You may believe that others are more qualified than you, and every time you succeed, you’re not confident you can do it again,” she adds.

Joyce says imposter syndrome is especially prevalent among women, minorities, and those from socioeconomic backgrounds different from their professional peers.

And it strikes some of the most successful people. Ed Whitacre, former chairman and CEO of General Motors, and Paula Banks-Jones, former president of BP Amoco Foundation, are among the top executives who admit to having suffered from impostor syndrome.

“It doesn’t matter how many degrees you’ve gotten, how much money you’ve earned, how many awards you’ve been given, or how far up on the corporate ladder you are,” says Joyce.

Joyce herself has been a trailblazer in the corporate world for 25 years, from being Avon’s first African American female vice president to serving as a board member on five Fortune 500 companies. She also served as President and CEO of Girls Inc., the nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Based on her own and others’ experiences with impostor syndrome, here are some of Joyce Roché’s ways to overcome it:

Don’t stay silent.

Find a way to speak about your fears with a trusted friend, a coach, a mentor, your partner, or a therapist. Or confess your true feelings in a journal or into a recorder. One of the symptoms of impostor syndrome is isolating from one’s peers and suffering in silence.

Do a reality check.

Test whether your way of seeing yourself and your abilities and accomplishments is realistic. Make a list of your special skills and the qualities you have that attract people to you and have gotten you this far.

See others for who they are.

Practice seeing other people as they are, with their own needs and foibles. See their strengths and weaknesses. Learning to see and accept flaws in others will allow you to see yourself in the same way, with compassion and understanding.

Learn to accept external validation.

The next time someone compliments you on something you’ve done well, put aside your habitual response and allow the information to sink in. Another way to practice this is to ask a trusted ally what your special gifts are; listen carefully and take it all in.

Question your work habits.

Ask whether trying to compensate for feeling unworthy by working harder than anyone else around you makes you feel less like a fake. Then, begin to consider what makes you feel truly worthy in your own eyes.

Live the life you want.

Ask yourself whether you’re satisfied with your life and your job, and if you aren’t, make a change. Sometimes the need to prove ourselves to others keeps us stuck in a position that’s not conducive to real growth and fulfillment. Living an authentic life will help you minimize worries about not fitting in, no matter how high you move up the social ladder.

You can find out if you have imposter syndrome by taking a free quiz at Joyce’s website (click on “Articles”).

I hope your Halloween is a treat.

Tag Goulet is co-founder of, a publisher of books on how to get started in a dream career, and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College. To contact Tag visit