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Can impostors thrive at work? The impostor phenomenon's role in work and career outcomes
Journal of Vocational Behavior  (IF6.065),  Pub Date : 2021-06-07, DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2021.103601
Sarah Hudson, Helena V. González-Gómez

This paper examines the effect the impostor phenomenon (IP) on short-term emotions (shame) and performance (creativity and organizational citizenship behavior- OCB) at work, and on career outcomes. Previous research shows direct detrimental effects of IP on some short-term performance measures, but effects on creativity and OCB remain under-researched, and no work has investigated any career effects. Through an experimental approach (Studies 1 and 3) and an online vignette (Study 2) using working populations, we find that IP is expressed as shame in response to simulated and recalled real work events. Shame mediates the negative effect of IP on creativity, and its positive effect on OCB, and mechanistic organizational structure exacerbates the negative shame-creativity relationship. Furthermore, Study 4 uses a survey design to reveal that IP relates negatively to external employability and career success. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we suggest that IP and shame deplete resources such that impostors suffer reduced ability to perform well at work in the short-term, with negative consequences for career success.