The majority of the research on the Imposter syndrome has been conducted by academics in the US.
Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes identified the syndrome and defined the symptoms in their 1970’s research amongst high performing academic women. Their research revealed that 70% of respondents had experienced the imposter syndrome at some stage in their careers and 33% of all respondents had experienced it at a chronic level, meaning the effects of imposterhood are experienced frequently and intensely, significantly impacting on their lives.
In 2000, Mark R. Leary, Katharine M. Patton, Amy E. Orlando, Wendy Wagoner Funk, all from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, published the results of their studies into the Imposter Phenomenon and specifically in relation to self-perceptions, reflected appraisals (comparison of how I rate myself compared with how someone else rates me) and interpersonal strategies. The respondents were under-graduate students. They identified two types of imposters: true imposters and strategic imposters and concluded that imposterism is a self presentation strategy designed either to protect or promote the individual.
In 2002, Naijean S. Bernard, Stephen J. Dollinger and Nerella V. Ramaniah from the Southern Illinois University, applied the Big 5 personality factors to the Imposter Phenomenon and found that people exhibiting the imposter symptoms had higher ratings of neuroticism (emotional sensitivity, reactivity and “me” focus) and lower levels of conscientiousness (discipline, order, implementation). Their study was conducted among a sample of 190 college students.
In 2004, Shamala Kumar and Carolyn M. Jagacinski found a connection between imposterism and type of goal-setting, together with views of intelligence. Again, their research was conducted amongst college students.
The only research in the commercial environment that I have found was conducted by Sharon Fried-Buchalter from Boca Ratan, Florida. She researched the fear of success / fear of failure dynamic amongst a cross-section of marketing managers in 1997. The cross-section was equal male / female, a spread of ethnic backgrounds and a salary range from US$25,000 to $350,000.
All this research has given us a reasonable understanding of what an intellectual imposter is, and how an “imposter” operates.
There are huge gaps in the verified data and the resulting insights around the incidence of imposterism in the commercial environment, degrees of imposterism, adaptive behaviours and consequences at both the individual and organisational level.
The various research studies are designed to give us that data so we can truly understand the extent and impact of this condition. It may prove to be - as I believe - the missing ingredient in organisational performance.
The "Imposterhood at Work" Study is now online!
The survey explores how imposterhood shows up for you in general, attitudes towards change and other factors that may create uncertainty in the workplace, it explores triggers for feelings of Imposterhood in the work environment, remotional and behavioural responses to those feelings and work consequences of feeling 'not good enough'. It also explores what authenticity means, how we know someone else is authentic, the benefits of being authentic for us as individuals and for the organisations we work for. My aim is to get a respondent base of 1000 people so please pass it along to anyone you know who may be willing to complete it.
In exchange for your valuable time, you will receive a copy of the report and everyone who completes the survey will have their name go into a draw to win $500 for themselves or their favourite charity.
Thank you for being willing to participate. Click here to access the survey.
Who is the MOST or LEAST authentic person in Australia?
In addition to our serious study on how Imposterhood impacts us at work, we are exploring your views on who is authentic and who is fake. To participate, click here.