The imposter syndrome, or the mis-representation of self in academic life

Bothello, J. and T. J. Roulet (2019). "The imposter syndrome, or the mis-representation of self in academic life." Journal of Management Studies 56(4): 854-861.

As academics who have recently entered the ‘tunnel’ of management academia, we witness a troubling phenomenon. Among junior scholars – ourselves included – there is a growing sense of anxiety and self‐doubt about the legitimacy of our profession and our position within it. We see much evidence of an ‘imposter syndrome’ (Clance and Imes, 1978) in newly minted academics, a condition where high‐achieving individuals either ascribe their accomplishments to luck and contingency rather than individual skill and merit, or find their profession to be a ‘bullshit job’ that provides little social value. This condition leads to a sense of anomie; in more severe cases, individuals live with the constant fear that they will someday lose all credibility, either when they are exposed as charlatans or when their occupation is revealed to be a sham. Although the imposter syndrome is common in many professions, we consider that certain characteristics intrinsic to management academia progressively intensify this condition. Our occupation is one where the induction rituals – both formal and informal – are in many ways misaligned with the multi‐dimensional roles of our profession. This cognitive dissonance leads a growing number of us to question whether we merit the status, legitimacy and rewards that are conferred upon us as members of a hyper‐competitive scholarly community.

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