"I Genuinely Can’t Understand Why I Was Selected for the Job": Descriptions of the Impostor Phenomenon in University Staff and Professors


  • Dana Ménard University of Windsor
  • Laura Chittle University of Windsor
  • Michelle Bondy University of Windsor
  • Julia Power University of Windsor
  • Lana Milidrag University of Windsor




Impostor Phenomenon, academic staff, professors, mental health


The Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is a person’s experience of internalized fraudulence relative to their successes; this is characterized by a fear of being “found out” and judged by others as well as difficulties internalizing successes (Clance & Imes, 1978). Previous research has suggested that it is commonly experienced by professors and staff in postsecondary institutions and associated with a variety of negative outcomes related to career and mental health. As part of an online survey about IP, academic staff and professors were provided an open text box and asked to describe the causes, consequences, and experiences of impostor feelings in academic settings. Three overarching categories and eight subcategories were identified through inductive content analysis, including 1) triggers of impostor feelings (i.e., interpersonal interactions, situational influences), 2) qualities of the experience itself (i.e., negative external perceptions, negative self-perceptions, feelings of fraudulence, negative emotions) and 3) management of impostor feelings (i.e., effective strategies, ineffective strategies). Implications for addressing impostor feelings in academic staff and professors are considered.