‘Impostor Phenomenon’ in the workplace
Dr Theresa Simpkin, Associate Professor (OB/HRM), Nottingham University Business School
Dr Simpkin is an industry-focused academic and senior consultant working with industry associations, Government and Government agencies. She has advised the Tasmanian and Australian Governments on skills, labour and training strategies. She is a member of the global advisory committee to the Data Centre Sector on skills, education and inclusion and was named among the 50 most influential women in the data economy for advising the Digital Infrastructure sector on workforce challenges. As an academic, she is currently invested in examining emerging managerial and leadership paradigms for the fourth industrial age. Her work has a focus on inclusion, productivity, psychological health and aims to minimise implicit bias in organisational and social structures.
Dr Simpkin’s research focuses, in particular, on the Impostor Phenomenon which is pervasive in organisations globally. The Impostor Phenomenon creates an internal feeling of ‘not being good enough’ and being undeserving of success. It can cause crushing doubt, stress and impacts negatively on motivations for career advancement, contributes to turnover and disguises the true capabilities of individuals – particularly women. The Impostor Phenomenon robs organisations of much needed talent and creates unnecessary barriers to individual success. While it is often seen as an individual concern, Dr Simpkin’s research demonstrates that workplace structures, processes and behaviours can, in fact, inadvertently ‘feed’ an individual’s sense of intellectual phoniness. Her research suggests that impostor experiences may be making a profound contribution to the ‘wicked’ problem of a lack of diversity specifically at board level and generally compounding workplace barriers to women as they mature into their careers and through life.
Dr Simpkin points out that the good intentioned Human Resource Development initiatives of reward, diversity and inclusion in organisational leadership will not necessarily work unless entrenched barriers, such as the Impostor Phenomenon, are tackled. Dr Simpkin’s proposal of a novel inclusive approach to people management addresses the Government priority of building inclusion and gender parity in the workplace.