'Imposter phenomenon' can hurt your career, says study

by L&D25 Nov 2016
A new study has revealed that 'the imposter phenomenon', or the insecure feeling that one is a 'fake' in the workplace and lacks confidence as a result, can have a negative effect on both an individual's career prospects and productivity.
Published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology, the study found that employees who feel like fakes in their place of work tend to undervalue their talent, even if they are high achievers. The result is that such a worker does not reach full potential, possibly leading to deleterious consequences for their company or organisation, not to mention their own career.
Dr. Mirjam Neureiter of University of Salzburg, one of the authors of the study, said, "As the impostor phenomenon contains the fear of being exposed, it might be expedient to provide networking programs or supervision groups where sufferers have the chance to share their experiences and feelings without any blaming.
"Incorporating the impostor topic in support measures might enhance the reduction of impostor feelings as well as their negative effects."
Neureiter, in collaboration with Dr. Eva Traut-Mattausch, analysed 238 responses from university alumni, working in a wide range of professions, to an anonymous online letter. The survey aimed to glean how the imposter phenomenon affects career development, the capacity to adapt to changing work conditions and awareness of the jobs market.
Among the negative emotions experienced by those suffering from the imposter phenomenon are depression and a fear of being revealed as a fake. The employee can then spiral into a pattern of thoughts that inhibits them from developing optimism about their future career.
Another interesting discovery from the study found that there also could be a positive side to the imposter phenomenon – someone who believes they are 'faking it' in the workplace is motivated to perform well in his or her role in order to avoid being 'found out'.