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Article
Publication date: 13 May 2019

Devasmita Chakraverty

This study aims to explore different themes related to impostor phenomenon, as experienced by graduate students and postdocs in science, technology, engineering and…

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore different themes related to impostor phenomenon, as experienced by graduate students and postdocs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Design/methodology/approach

Open-ended survey responses from 120 US-based participants from 40 states and Washington, D.C., describing an occasion when they felt like an impostor, were analyzed thematically.

Findings

Following content analysis, three themes emerged: occurrence, attribution and identity. While impostor-like feelings were experienced as early as high school or college, the majority experienced it during PhD application, on being admitted to a PhD program and throughout PhD training. The people experiencing impostor phenomenon attributed their achievements and success to others (other’s name, prestige, or connections, other’s mistake, other’s lies or misrepresentation, or other’s kindness) or self (self-inadequacy, pretense, luck or self-doubt) rather than their own hard work or ability. Gender-based and race/ethnicity-based identity also shaped the experiences of the impostor phenomenon.

Research limitations/implications

Open-ended survey responses varied in length and level of detail. Responses provided a one-time snapshot of a memory related to impostor-feelings that stood out, not indicating if the feeling persisted or evolved with time. The findings are not generalizable over a larger population.

Originality/value

This study identified multiple themes related to the impostor phenomenon not investigated before, enriching existing research while also providing methodological rigor for the development of follow-up studies.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 10 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

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Article
Publication date: 18 March 2020

Megan S. Downing, Nana Arthur-Mensah and Jeffrey Zimmerman

The impostor phenomenon (IP) is a psychological cycle experienced by individuals who, despite successes, are plagued by self-doubt and a concern of being identified as…

Abstract

Purpose

The impostor phenomenon (IP) is a psychological cycle experienced by individuals who, despite successes, are plagued by self-doubt and a concern of being identified as fraudulent. IP research is typically focused on the psychological well-being of those who experience IP, examining antecedents and outcomes of IP. Research on organizational impact is limited with few studies examining IP’s influence on leadership practices. The purpose of this paper is to discuss IP and explore the value of mitigating IP’s negative effects with a view to developing a conceptual model that illustrates IP in context with leaders.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a scoping literature review methodology, this paper draws on identity theory to explore and discuss the relevance of IP to organizations and leadership practice.

Findings

Following a review of relevant literature, the authors propose a conceptual model that illustrates IP’s impact on organizational leaders’ capacity to practice leadership due to conflicting identity standards and diminished self-efficacy. Implications for organizational leadership development as well as leadership practice, theory, and research are discussed.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is a theoretical analysis, not an empirical study, however, it presents a conceptual model that provides perspective on IP and its relevance to leadership as well as the organizational value of and suggestions for mitigating IP.

Originality/value

A greater understanding of IP and IP’s potential consequences on leadership in the workplace may contribute to organizational interventions that mitigate IP's impact on leaders and the organizations they serve.

Details

International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1093-4537

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Nicole H.W. Civettini

Purpose – The aim of this research was to test whether the motivations of self-enhancement and self-verification act independently and simultaneously, specifically in the…

Abstract

Purpose – The aim of this research was to test whether the motivations of self-enhancement and self-verification act independently and simultaneously, specifically in the context of the impostor phenomenon.

Design/methodology/approach – Using both self-report measures and salivary cortisol levels, I conducted a 2×2 experiment (N=106) in which status (high or low) was crossed with competition outcome (win or lose). The “low-status winner” condition served as a simulation of the impostor phenomenon.

Findings – Winners reported greater positive affect and less negative affect, indicating self-enhancement, but salivary cortisol levels were higher in participants whose status was disconsonant with the competition outcome (high-status losers and low-status winners), reflecting self-verification.

Research limitations/implications – A potential limitation was the omission of nicotine use as a control variable.

Practical implications – Results illuminate the dual public and private nature of the impostor phenomenon, in which normative expressions of happiness overlie deeper feelings of anxiety. A better understanding would benefit educators, employers, counselors, and therapists who work with high-achieving women and minorities as well as the women and minorities they serve.

Social implications – Findings suggest that efforts should be made to bolster the confidence of promising young women and minorities, with the understanding that, despite high levels of achievement, self-confidence and a sense of deservedness may be lacking.

Originality/value – Methodological advancements included the first laboratory simulation of the impostor phenomenon and the use of both self-report and physiological measures of responses to status situations. This was the first study capable of observing the motivations to self-enhance and self-verify simultaneously and independently of one another.

Details

Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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Book part
Publication date: 2 October 2012

Marilyn V. Whitman and Kristen K. Shanine

The recent economic recession has led many organizations to downsize, or eliminate positions, in an effort to cut labor costs and improve profitability. Survivors may…

Abstract

The recent economic recession has led many organizations to downsize, or eliminate positions, in an effort to cut labor costs and improve profitability. Survivors may suddenly find themselves over-rewarded, or prematurely promoted, into one or more vacant positions. One negative consequence of over-reward in particular, impostor phenomenon, may present significant challenges at both the individual and organizational level. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to examine the consequences and coping strategies of survivors who perceive themselves as over-rewarded and under-qualified for a job. Hobfoll's Conservation of Resources Theory (COR) serves as this study's framework to explicate the outcomes associated with impostor feelings and how impostors cope with their perceived inadequacy. Specifically, we propose that impostor feelings will be positively related to emotional exhaustion. To deal with the exhaustion, impostors may rely on coping strategies in order to master the additional internal and external demands created by feelings of impostorism. The type of strategy used by impostors to cope with the exhaustion is influenced by the level of perceived social support. That is, impostors who perceive higher levels of support will resort to active coping while those who perceive lower levels of support will resort to avoidant coping. Managerial implications and directions for future research are offered.

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The Role of the Economic Crisis on Occupational Stress and Well Being
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-005-5

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Article
Publication date: 16 September 2021

Shamala Kumar, Pavithra Kailasapathy and Achira Sedari Mudiyanselage

Although the impostor phenomenon is attributed to childhood experiences, theory on achievement motivation indicates that achievement-related fears can also be elicited by…

Abstract

Purpose

Although the impostor phenomenon is attributed to childhood experiences, theory on achievement motivation indicates that achievement-related fears can also be elicited by the context. Using achievement goal theory as a base, the authors investigate the effect of context-dependent predictors, job-fit, career stage and organisational tenure, on impostor fears. The authors also examined gender and the achievement-related traits, self-efficacy and locus of control, as predictors of impostor fears to advance knowledge on antecedents to impostor fears.

Design/methodology/approach

Two studies were conducted with 270 and 280 participants, each. In Study 1, a subset of 12 respondents participated in follow-up interviews.

Findings

Impostor fears tended to be predicted by organisational tenure and career stage in both studies and job-fit in Study 1. Self-efficacy and locus of control predicted impostor fears. Men and women reported similar levels of impostor fears.

Practical implications

The authors demonstrate the importance of context in eliciting impostor fears and partially support initial descriptions of antecedents to impostor fears. The findings contribute to the development of targeted managerial practices that can help with the development of interventions, such as orientation programmes, that will enhance socialisation processes and mitigate impostor fears.

Originality/value

The literature on imposter fears has not addressed their situational predictors, which the authors argue are important elements in the genesis and maintenance of impostor fears. The authors draw on achievement goal theory to explain the pattern of findings related to key situational characteristics and their influence on imposter fears. The findings for Sri Lanka, on personality predictors, are similar to those reported in studies focused on North America providing evidence of cross-cultural applicability of the concept.

Details

Personnel Review, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0048-3486

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Article
Publication date: 14 March 2016

Wayne S Crawford, Kristen K. Shanine, Marilyn V. Whitman and K. Michele Kacmar

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…

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Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Practical/implications

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 31 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0268-3946

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Article
Publication date: 29 April 2020

Aparna KH and Preetha Menon

The purpose of this paper is to integrate impostor syndrome and leadership research to identify antecedents of impostor syndrome, their impact on sustainable leader…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to integrate impostor syndrome and leadership research to identify antecedents of impostor syndrome, their impact on sustainable leader behaviors. The paper also postulates the moderating effect of mindfulness and leader member exchange on impostor syndrome and sustainable leader behaviors, respectively.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper relies on an integrative approach of literature review on impostor syndrome and leadership. After identifying gaps in impostor syndrome research and its intersectionality with the constructs of contextual leadership theory, an integrative conceptual framework was formulated incorporating antecedents, consequences and moderators of impostor syndrome.

Findings

Three antecedents of impostor syndrome were identified from the literature, namely, gender, family/social role expectation and personality traits. Additionally, this paper also unearths contextual factors as yet another antecedent to impostor syndrome. Negative impact of impostor syndrome on leader behaviors such as managerial decision-making, innovative work behavior (IWB) and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) were established by connecting those to the three primary characteristics of impostor syndrome, namely, low self-efficacy, fear of failure and perceived fraudulence, respectively. Finally, the paper also posits the moderating role of leader member exchange and mindfulness and proposes mindfulness training as an effective intervention for impostor syndrome.

Research limitations/implications

This being a conceptual paper will benefit from empirical studies that corroborate theoretical posits. The scope of studying the effect of impostor syndrome on sustainable leader behavior was limited to three major variables, namely, managerial decision-making, IWB and OCB. Thus, it calls for a more elaborate model of impostor syndrome including other relevant leader behaviors.

Practical implications

The model when applied in organizational context addresses the need for mindfulness training to reduce the effect of impostor syndrome among leaders. Leaders will exhibit sustainable behaviors when provided with the right kind of training.

Originality/value

The study attempts to integrate the two independent constructs, impostor syndrome and leadership to establish a novel and meaningful connection and throws light to the unaddressed antecedents, consequences and moderators of its impact on sustainable leader behaviors. From learning and development practitioners’ perspective, it also signifies the effectiveness of mindfulness training among employees’ personal and professional development.

Details

European Journal of Training and Development, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2046-9012

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Book part
Publication date: 17 May 2018

Caitlin McClurg and Rhiannon Jones

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introductory exploration of how the modern Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) may contribute to the…

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introductory exploration of how the modern Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) may contribute to the effect of imposter phenomenon (IP) in graduate students and early career librarians and to offer solutions to mitigate the effect.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Six university American Library Association-accredited library master’s programs in North America were identified and compared based on publicly available information on program websites. The authors pose questions about the modern MLIS and identify potential solutions to the issues raised about IP in graduate school and the workplace. Ideas in the chapter are supported by best practices suggested by academic literature on organizational behavior and Library and Information Studies (LIS) scholarship as well as invaluable personal reflections found on blogs and other gray literature sources.

Findings – The modern MLIS produces graduates who can vary greatly in their knowledge of LIS topics and career preparedness. MLIS programs and employers can mitigate the effects of nervousness, burn out, and isolation for high-achieving individuals through career preparedness and continuing education courses and opportunities for positive onboarding and mentorship.

Originality/Value – To date, there is a gap in the LIS literature about IP, especially the connection between the modern MLIS and IP. This chapter provides an exploratory look and asks questions to further the conversation on this topic.

Details

Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78754-880-0

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Book part
Publication date: 24 July 2012

Matthew J. Taylor, Chammie C. Austin, Jacob D. Perkins and Jason L. Edwards

Purpose – For many African American college students, the pursuit of a college education has both rewards and risks. Oftentimes, African American students are faced with…

Abstract

Purpose – For many African American college students, the pursuit of a college education has both rewards and risks. Oftentimes, African American students are faced with the decision to leave the comforts of their home communities in order to realize the American dream through the mechanism of higher education. The majority attend predominately White institutions (PWIs) where successful negotiation of this process not only has academic consequences, but psychological and cultural consequences as well. This chapter examines the psychological and phenomenological experience of African American students at PWIs of higher education.

Design/methodology/approach – The present day manifestation of historical and sociopolitical foundations of exclusion, racism, and discrimination in higher education are explored. There is a focus on how these latter themes relate to “campus culture” and institutions, with implications for psychological coping and educational success. Conclusions also focus on ways to begin to bring about change in this culture.

Findings – The successful negotiation of the collegiate environment, ultimately leading to the awarding of one's degree requires more than just passing classes; matriculation and retention in college also involves engaging one's social and cultural environment as well, particularly outside of the classroom.

Originality/value – As discussions of multiculturalism and inclusiveness in higher education find themselves anchored to abstract and theoretical conceptualization, or linked to an approach which focuses on “numbers” and “percentages” among student bodies, both of these approaches provide little indication that we are ultimately talking about the lived experiences of real people.

Details

Health Disparities Among Under-served Populations: Implications for Research, Policy and Praxis
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-103-8

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Article
Publication date: 4 June 2021

Anna Sverdlik, Lynn Mcalpine and Nathan Hall

The purpose of this study is to better understand the declines in doctoral students’ mental and physical health while pursuing their doctoral degrees, by revealing the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand the declines in doctoral students’ mental and physical health while pursuing their doctoral degrees, by revealing the major themes of students’ voluntary comments following a survey that primed students to reflect on these topics.

Design/methodology/approach

The present study used qualitative thematic analysis to uncover themes in doctoral students’ voluntary comments on a large-scale, web-based survey of graduate students’ motivation and well-being.

Findings

A thematic analysis revealed six major emerging themes: timing in the degree process, work-life balance, health/well-being changes, impostor syndrome, the supervisor and hopelessness.

Research limitations/implications

The themes uncovered in the present study contribute to the literature by highlighting important underexplored topics (e.g. timing in the degree process, hopelessness) in doctoral education research and they are discussed and situated in the context of existing literature.

Practical implications

Implications for doctoral supervisors and departments are discussed.

Social implications

The present study highlights some pressing concerns among doctoral students, as articulated by the students themselves and can contribute to the betterment of doctoral education, thereby reducing attrition, improving the experiences of doctoral students and possibly affording more candidates to achieve a doctoral degree.

Originality/value

The present study makes the above-mentioned contributions by taking a novel approach and analyzing doctoral students’ voluntary comments (n = 607) on a large-scale, web-based survey. Thus, while some of the themes were primed by the survey itself, the data represent issues/concerns that students perceived as important enough to comment about after already having completed a lengthy questionnaire.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

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