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Examining the impostor phenomenon and work-family conflict

Wayne S Crawford (Department of Management, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA)
Kristen K. Shanine (Department of Management, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Marilyn V. Whitman (Department of Management, Culverhouse College of Commerce, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
K. Michele Kacmar (Department of Management, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine the moderated-mediational relationship between the impostor phenomenon (IP) and work-to-family conflict (WFC). Building on conservation of resources (COR) theory, the authors hypothesize that individuals who experience the IP lack the initial resources needed to meet work demands and, thus, experience emotional exhaustion, which leads to WFC. However, the authors hypothesize that additional resources provided by organizations, such as perceived organizational support (POS), may weaken the negative experiences of imposters.


The authors tested a moderated-mediation model using data from a time-lagged survey study among 92 Midwest community college employees. Regression was used to examine the mediating effects of emotional exhaustion and the moderating effect of POS on the IP to WFC relationship.


Results support the hypothesized model. Emotional exhaustion is a mediating mechanism in the relationship between the IP and WFC. POS is a moderator of this indirect relationship; the indirect relationship between the IP and WFC through emotional exhaustion is weaker when employees perceive high levels of POS.


The findings suggest that there are detrimental long-term effects associated with the IP for organizations. Thus, managers should curb feelings of impostorism within their organizations and provide impostors with organizational support in order to reduce their emotional exhaustion and WFC.


The present study indicates that individual dispositions play an indirect role in WFC. Furthermore, the authors identify organizational outcomes associated with the IP, whereas previous research has rarely emphasized outcomes.



Crawford, W.S., Shanine, K.K., Whitman, M.V. and Kacmar, K.M. (2016), "Examining the impostor phenomenon and work-family conflict", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 375-390.



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