Management

The Impostor Phenomenon or Syndrome is the feeling that one’s success is due to unrelated factors, rather than one’s competence and qualifications. This impacts the performance of mainly high potential individuals. According to Professors Helena Gonzalez-Gomez (NEOMA Business School), and Sarah Hudson (Rennes School of Business), there are ways to understand, manage and unleash the potential of employees who feel like impostors.

3 reasons for managers to help Impostor Syndrome victims

High potential individuals

It appears that in many cases, the Impostor Syndrome affects high potential employees, who are precious for businesses.

Studies done on the subject have found that, paradoxically, it is particularly prominent in individuals with outstanding professional and academic accomplishments, and also that it is accentuated in women.

Retaining talents

Suffering from Impostor Phenomenon may generate higher levels of stress and lowered job satisfaction. This can lead the employee to find a job elsewhere.

Commitment and performance.

Because the Impostor Syndrome is linked to a fear of being exposed as a fraud, of not deserving to be there, it can influence employee commitment and creativity, and thus performance. Importantly, performance is not affected due to lack of skills or capacity, but because of this continuous fear. This may inhibit employees with the IP to proactively work on projects and to voice new ideas.

3 keys to cope with Impostor Syndrome

No pressure

The Impostor Syndrome may arise for a variety of reasons. But one is really important to understand for the manager: when someone is not confident about their worthiness, more pressure for high performance may accentuate this feeling.

Be supportive

This is why in a rather supportive and welcoming environment, the person suffering from the impostor syndrome may more easily cope with those feelings and start to perform at the best of their capacities.

Solution-oriented

Managerial feedback that avoids direct attributions of personal failure and rather focuses on how to improve performance in a more neutral manner is likely to increase creativity in individuals with Impostor Phenomenon.

To go further:

Using four studies with different methodologies and a total of 648 employees in US and Europe, the researchers investigated the effects of IP on performance and career outcomes.

Hudson, S., & González-Gómez, H. V. (2021). Can impostors thrive at work? The impostor phenomenon’s role in work and career outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2021.103601

16 November 2021
GONZALEZ-GOMEZ Helena

THE AUTHOR

GONZALEZ-GOMEZ Helena

Professor NEOMA BS

Helena González Gómez is Associate Professor in the People and Organisations (P&O) department of NEOMA Business School. Helena completed her PhD in Management at IE Business School, in Madrid, Spain. Her research interests center around the role of emotions at work, organizational creativity, and inequality in HR decisions. Her work has appeared in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the Journal of Vocational Behavior, and the Journal of Business Ethics amongst others. Helena is a regular co-organizer of various research seminars at the school and a permanent reviewer in various academic journals. Previously to join academia she worked for several years in the banking industry, and held positions in corporate banking, project management, and information security.