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Imposter phenomenon and employee mental health: what role do organizations play?

Jarrod Haar (Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Kirsty de Jong (Department of Management, Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 30 November 2022

109

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore impostor syndrome or impostor phenomenon (IP), which is defined as high-achieving individuals' failure to internalize accomplishments. Despite the wide study of IP, the role of the context beyond the individual is largely ignored, although recently, calls have been made for such scrutiny. In this study perceived organizational support (POS) is included as a contextual factor.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a large and representative sample (n = 1,042) of New Zealand employees, the study seeks to investigate IP using the standard Clance IP scale test, and the frequency of IP is calculated. Next, it assesses the links between IP and mental health, specifically job anxiety and job depression, are explored. POS is included as a moderator.

Findings

Overall, the study finds solid evidence of the psychometric properties of the scale, with the following frequencies across categories: few IP issues (14.0%), moderate IP issues (37.3%), frequent IP issues (39.7%) and intense IP issues (8.9%). Regression analysis shows that IP is positively related to job anxiety and job depression. The interactions between POS and IP support the hypothesized buffering effect. Additional tests suggest that IP is a widespread workplace phenomenon irrespective of individual or organization demographics.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of this study highlight the common nature of IP in the workplace and its role in mental health. However, POS clearly can play a key role in its management in the workplace.

Originality/value

The IP literature has a limited focus on workplaces, and mental health, including POS as a moderator, and provides additional value.

Keywords

Citation

Haar, J. and de Jong, K. (2022), "Imposter phenomenon and employee mental health: what role do organizations play?", Personnel Review, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-01-2022-0030

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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